Parkhall College in Antrim has benefited from the closure of Massereene Community College and St Malachy’s College leaving it the only post-primary secondary school remaining in Antrim.
Prior to its closure Massereene was subject to a vote on a change of status from Controlled to Controlled Integrated. Parents wanted the change (possibly to save the school from closure) but the NEELB development proposal to close the school was granted by the direct rule minister.
Massereene, in fact, has not closed but is being used as the senior campus for Parkhall. Pupils from Massereene, thanks to manipulation by the NEELB, attend the same campus but wear the new uniforms of a school they were rejected from or their parents declined at the time of transfer.
There is no post-primary integrated sector provision in Antrim. The only Catholic Maintained Secondary school was closed down by CCMS with pupils having to travel to Crumlin at taxpayers expense.
Parkhall College governors, including one who was a member of Massereene’s BOG have adopted the transformation to Integrated status approach too. Two votes on the matter in the middle of 2007 resulted in a rejection by parents. The ballots conducted by Electoral Reform Services were valid and legal but gave a result that did not meet the aims and objectives of the NEELB, NICIE or the BOG of Parkhall.
The Department of Education wrote to the school in November indicating that the results of the ballots were final.
A Freedom of Information request to the school on the ballot was not answered in the timescale required by the 2000 Act. When eventually produced names of those proposing transformation ballots were redacted. Representatives in a Public Authority acting in secret.
Not content in being thwarted by parental wishes the school have set in train a propaganda campaign designed to mislead and misinform parents.
The first effort was a “Newsletter” which is factually incorrect when referring to the ballots.
Now parents attending parent-teacher interviews are being supplied sheafs of A4 paper without letterhead or authors names answering “Q and A’s on Integration.
Clearly the NEELB, NICIE and the Board of Governors have set themselves against the parents of pupils at Parkhall school. An attempt will be made to carry out another ballot- at taxpayers expense parents are told. It is remarkable that the BOG contain two elected representatives and yet both have said or done nothing publicly despite the matter being splashed over the front page of the Antrim Guardian just before Christmas.
The matter will not end quietly. Appropriate action must be taken against those officials who have overstepped their remit. This includes teachers.