Ulster Unionist Assembly Member for South Belfast, Michael McGimpsey has spoken of his disappointment at proposals to close Newtownbreda High School as part of an amalgamation with Knockbreda High School.
His statement follows a public meeting at Newtownbreda High School last week where at least 250 parents attended to hear from SEELB officials of the boards plans to amalgamate the two schools into a new school on the Newtownbreda site.
In a statement Mr McGimpsey said, “I find it staggering that the South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) would even consider closing such a successful school as Newtownbreda High. We heard time and time again at last week’s public meeting from parents of pupils at the school who had nothing but praise for the school, its principal and staff. Every single parent who spoke at the meeting was opposed to the amalgamation and preferred instead, if Knockbreda had to be closed then those pupils were integrated into Newtownbreda as was the case when Dunmurray closed last year.”
“I understand that pupil numbers across South Belfast and Northern Ireland are on the decline however Newtownbreda High School’s enrolment has held up well. In 1996/97 academic year the enrolment in the school stood at 793 by 2012/13 and this had only fallen to 697, bucking the trend felt by many other schools across the province.”
“I met with the Principal of Newtownbreda High School, am seeking a meeting with the Chief Executive of SEELB and will raise the issue with the Minister for Education to do all I can to ensure the school is kept open.”
“I believe we must do all in our power to protect Newtownbreda from closure. It is a good school that is providing a quality education to children from across South Belfast and Castlereagh many of whom are from socially deprived backgrounds. There is an excellent management and teaching system in the school that is working and it is madness to destroy this for what I believe is little more than a PR exercise for the Board.”