‘Schools must maintain separate identities’, says Grammar principal

THE new principal of Larne Grammar has spoken out against controversial plans that could see the merger of the town’s two secondary-level schools.

Earlier this year, the North Eastern Education and Library Board published its draft area plan, setting out proposals to tackle falling pupil enrolment numbers.

The report – which is subject to amendment or rejection by Education Minister John O’Dowd – contains two options for the future of post-primary provision in the Larne area.

One possibility is the amalgamation of Larne Grammar School and Larne High School into a co-educational school of 1,200 pupils aged 11-19. The second option is to maintain the status quo.

Jonathan Wylie, who took over the reins at the Grammar last month, feels young people in the borough would be better served by the two schools remaining separate entities.

Speaking at Larne Grammar’s recent prize giving night (see pages 24-25), the former vice-principal at Grosvenor Grammar School said: “I would like to reiterate my commitment to academically selective education and my determination to ensure that grammar school provision remains in Larne.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues in Larne High School to enhance the educational experience we can offer to the pupils of both schools. In the same way that I believe this community needs a strong grammar school, I believe with equal conviction that Larne needs a strong high school offering an educational pathway that is distinct yet equally valued by young people, their parents and employers.

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“There is no doubt that there is a need for some rationalisation within the education system, but this must not come at the expense of educational standards or parental choice and it must take into account local circumstances.

“I am completely confident that the two schools will continue to maintain their separate identity and thus best-serve our pupils, the town and the surrounding community,” Mr Wylie concluded.

A public consultation period on the report will run until next month, enabling parents, pupils and teachers to make their voices heard. NEELB has also launched a new facility to allow people to respond to the consultation online.

Responses to consultation must be received no later than October 26. They can be completed online at http://www.puttingpupilsfirst.info or submitted directly to the Board.