The South Down MLA said:
“The community will be aware that development proposals are being considered on the viability of St. Columbans College, and future provision for pupils from the Mournes in a re-imagined St. Louis Grammar School. While the current development proposals are welcome and will indeed offer a new educational reality for children in the Mournes, it seems that this new educational reality will not include children with special educational needs.”
“Myself and Councillor Sean Doran have been working with the group of parents whose children currently access the Learning Support Centre in St Columban’s College. There is real anger and frustration that the Education Authority and CCMS seem determined to remove the Learning Support Provision for future generations of children in the Mournes.
while other children will enjoy the benefits and convenience of being educated on their doorstep; children with special educational needs will be forced to travel outside Kilkeel and the Mournes to access their nearest Catholic Maintained Learning Support Centre.”
Development proposals have been out for consultation for some months and a decision on the future of St. Columbans College and St. Louis Grammar School is expected in the coming weeks.
Sinéad Ennis went on to say:
“Sinn Féin met with the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools to raise the parent’s concerns that there won’t be the same level of provision in any new St. Louis set up as is currently enjoyed in St. Columbans College. I have written to Bishop Anthony Farquhar to highlight this situation and to ask that he supports the parents in their quest to have a LSC secured for future generations of children.
“My colleague Chirs Hazzard MP and I have also sought an urgent meeting with the Education Authority and will be meeting with the Permanent Secretary to seek clarity on the issue of a post primary, Learning Support Centre in the Mournes. I have asked that the Permanent Secretary refrains from signing off on any proposals until parents’ concerns are properly addressed.
“Primary Schools in the Mournes have not been notified by CCMS or EA that there will not be a Learning Support Centre for children who need to access it post primary.
“Parents, pupils and schools need clarity from the EA on this matter. It is Sinn Féin’s belief that the Education Department and Authority need to act in the interests of children particularly children with special educational needs. I would ask that the community support the families in their quest to have this vital educational service retained in the Mournes for this, and future generations” – ENDS