Ulster Unionist Leader, Mike Nesbitt MLA, has called on the Education Minister not to make any decision on the future of Dundonald High School before August, so that this year’s exam results can be taken into account.
The Strangford MLA led a Party delegation of Danny Kinahan MLA, Education Spokesperson, and local MLA Michael Copeland to meet Gregory Butler, Chief Executive of the South Eastern Education and Library Board, to make representations on behalf of a community based working group dedicated to resisting moves to close the school.
Mr Nesbitt said: “The Dundonald High School Working Group are taking an evidence-based approach to their argument for keeping the school open, and are posing some tough questions to the Board about its decision to recommend closure.
“There are three key issues. Firstly, the Working Group point to a clear trend of improvement in both enrolment and academic achievement at the school.
“Secondly, there is the question of fairness, as several other schools whose academic output is below that of Dundonald are not being earmarked for closure.
“Thirdly, the school has a highly motivated new leader, in Head Teacher Ken Perry, who has a plan to tackle the academic shortfall. Last year, the school saw a striking improvement in exam results, and the introduction of an Accelerated Learning Programme has seen those pupils outstrip national averages by showing progress measured at over 28% in a single year.
“Ken Perry is not only a leader with a plan, he is also a past pupil of Dundonald High and therefore the perfect role model for today’s pupils, who see in their Headmaster living proof of what pupils can achieve.
“The Ulster Unionist Party is committed to standing shoulder to shoulder with the community in Dundonald to fight to give Mr Perry every chance to turn the school around. It will need educational, social and political arguments to succeed, and I note with interest that there were no fewer than 242 responses to the Consultation, chief among them being the belief in the area that the closure proposal was yet another attack on the Protestant community.
“Danny, Michael and I call on Minister John O’Dowd not to rush to any decision and to be mindful of the forthcoming exam results due in August. If they show further improvement, then it appears to us that the green shoots of recovery have sprouted.”