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Reaction to Adjourment Debate on Kilkeel School Mergers
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LOCAL Kilkeel area politicians have agreed that a merger of the St Columban’s and St Louis secondary school would be beneficial for the education for the pupils. At an adjourment debate at Stormont this week, the issues were well aired. 

Rogers Says Act Without Delay

SDLP education spokesperson Séan Rogers said an all-ability school covering both academic and vocational routes is feasible in Kilkeel but warned that the longer the education upheaval in post-primary education, the greater affect it will have on the area as whole.

The South Down MLA was speaking during an adjournment debate on post-primary education in Kilkeel said: “The title of the debate read “Post-primary Education:  Kilkeel”. It could quite easily have read “Education in Mourne”, because the longer that this matter remains unsolved, the greater effect it will have on all our schools.

South Down MLA Sean Rogers has called for action to move the merger forward.

“When a young couple decides to settle down and have a family, education is a very important issue. We all want the best for our children. This will not affect schooling alone, but every aspect of what happens in the Mourne area.

“What has happened since the post-primary review in February 2012? Basically, nothing; much to the frustration of both schools in the area. A vacuum has been created, which is not good for the community of either school.

“Parents want to see opportunities for all our young people who desire to follow both an academic and a vocational route. We have a strong trade culture in Mourne. Those paths are equally important today. Our students must have the right skills when the opportunities arise, be that in the traditional trades or in developing opportunities in offshore energy, tourism or agrifoods, but, most importantly, parents need a guarantee that there will be places for all children from the feeder primary schools in the parishes of upper and lower Mourne.

“Can both academic and vocational be done in one school? Yes, they can; in one all-abilities school, to meet the needs of all our children. I have every confidence that it can happen, but it will take time. It will take time to plan; this cannot be thrust upon us, it must be agreed.

“I welcome the statement from the St Louis trustees and board of governors, as it acknowledges that pupils may enter the school via a route that is not necessarily academic. That is only the start. I look forward to the conversations between the representatives of both schools about the best way forward. It will take time to develop a strategic development plan; a plan that will satisfy all stakeholders.

“I extend an invitation to Minister O’Dowd to visit both schools and experience for himself the strong support there is for this merger.”

Ruane  Supports the Merger

Sinn Féin MLA Caitriona Ruane, the former Education MInister, has said that the debate in the NI Assembly on the amalgamation of St Columban’s and St Louis schools in Kilkeel shows public support in favour for the merger.

Ms Ruane said: “The debate in the Assembly  to discuss the issue of the future of secondary schooling in the Kilkeel area was an important step in creating a first class education facility for the children of Kilkeel.

Sinn Féin South Down MLA Caitriona Ruane said the merger is about promoting excellence in education and equality.

“We must look to the future when we look at education and the figures outline a lack of pupils to maintain three post primary schools in the area.

“Kilkeel High School has already shown the way forward by being an all ability school and that leaves the future of catholic post primary education to be decided.

“There is a big banner outside St Columban’s that says “Amalgamate, don’t discriminate and this highlights the fact that this is also an issue of equality.

“The proposed merger between St Columban’s and St Louis I believe is the best way forward and amalgamation will allow us to push for a new school fit for the twenty first century.

“This is about providing academic excellence above academic selection and the best way to do that is for the two schools should amalgamate.

“I particularly want to thank the parents, staff and pupils who travelled to Stormont for the debate and recognise the fact that due to the Welfare Reform debate it was very late before the debate began yet they remained there to show their support for the amalgamation of the two schools.”