Questions raised over school futures

A MAGHERAFELT councillor has criticised proposals for the future of Rainey Endowed and Sperrin Integrated College after plans from Education and Library Boards have been revealed.

The main change proposed in the North-Eastern Education and Library Board’s area plan is to merge Rainey Endowed and Sperrin Integrated into a “bi-lateral shared” school which will require a new school building.

UUP Councillor George Shiels criticised the proposal describing it as “educational gerrymandering”.

“Why would this report be made now after a previous attempt to change the status of Rainey was rejected by parents. Why would they try again?” he said.

He said if the plan went ahead that “the Unionist community would be deprived of options to educate their children.” Mr Shiels has urged those opposed to the move to make their voices heard during the consultation period.

DUP MLA for Mid Ulster Ian McCrea has urged that the shared school is only a proposal and said he was confident it would be “not one school or the other but two schools sharing facilites”, but queried if it was a way to “try and get rid of grammar schools through the back door”.

“It’s down to the Board of Governors and I would encourage them to make a decision based on what’s best for the education of the children,” he said.

The MLA said the bigger issue was for progress to be made on a long-awaited new build for Rainey Endowed.

Sinn Féin Councillor for Magherafelt Caoimhe Scullion, who is also a teacher, said that children are the most important factor in considering any changes.

“The current system, across the whole island, as it stands is unsustainable,” she said.

“We are very fortunate however, in this area to have schools that are performing very well and any efficencies or improvements that can been made are to be welcomed.

“There will be no decisions taken until after the ongoing consultation period so anyone that has a concern or suggestions should use this opportunity to ensure that it is registered and taken into consideration.”