MLA rejects claim he ‘undermined school’s efforts to stay open’ in Glenarm
Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has dismissed criticism by a DUP councillor over his remarks in the Assembly regarding the status of two East Antrim primary schools.
Commenting on social media, Mid and East Antrim Councillor Andrew Clarke suggested that Mr Dickson had “used the floor of the Assembly to undermine the school’s efforts to stay open”.
Cllr Clarke, a Coast Road councillor, said: “Seaview Primary School in Glenarm has been one of the most exciting stories in my brief time on council.
“Under threat of closure, the residents of Glenarm have rallied together, with school numbers more than doubling.
“An incredible amount of energy and time has been spent turning the school around and developing a way forward.
“Incredibly, rather than help, our local Alliance representative yesterday used the floor of the Assembly to undermine our school’s efforts to stay open.
“We should cherish each of our schools, not pit them against each other. We should encourage communities coming together, not sow division. And we should know the facts before publicly launching out.”
Last year, parents voted overwhelmingly in favour of integration at Seaview Primary School in Glenarm with 95 per cent of parents backing a proposed change in status. Seaview is believed to be the first Roman Catholic school to seek this change.
Meanwhile, a proposal has been submitted to the Education Authority by the board of governors at Carrickfergus Central Primary School to the effect that the school will transform to controlled integrated status with effect from September 1 2021.
The Department of Education extended the objection period for Carrickfergus Central Primary to November 9 to facilitate the submission of consultation responses.
Speaking in the Assembly on Tuesday, Mr Dickson said that he welcomed that the Department is “back on track” to make decisions and he particularly welcomed the one on Carrickfergus Central Primary.
He added: “In respect of Seaview, you will appreciate that it is less than three miles away from an already successful integrated primary school that is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
“How does the minister see the development plan proposal bearing in mind that there are two villages less than three miles apart.”
Education Minister Peter Weir replied: “I am duty-bound ahead of any decision on a development proposal to make no comment at all on the merits of that case either for or against that proposal.
“I cannot comment on for instance the distance between existing schools at present. Obviously all factors will be taken into account before there is a decision.”
Responding to Cllr Clarke’s suggestion, Mr Dickson said: “All I was doing was trying to get a timeline from the minister and I am grateful for the answer I got.
“I was not wishing to stir any issue. I want to see integrated schools available to any child or parents that want integrated education available to them in East Antrim.
“I was keen to find out what was happening at Central having an interest in the school and having been chair of the board of governors.
“I was delighted that the Minister was able to tell us the process reopened at the end of this month so schools waiting will get a decision.
“I am one hundred per cent supportive of integrated education. What I want is the minister to get a move on.”
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter.
Click here to read: Celebrity couple cut ribbon at integrated school’s new building in Larne
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