Concerns raised at school meeting

Doug Beattie MC MLA. Pic by Press Eye
Doug Beattie MC MLA. Pic by Press Eye

Governors at Craigavon Senior High School have expressed their surprise that a local MLA has held a meeting with the Children’s Commissioner to discuss issues at the school without involving them.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie met with the commissioner recently, along with a former chair of the Board of Governors and a former school principal from the area, to highlight their concerns about the Lurgan campus based on a critical 2016 internal review.

However, a member of the current board of governors, who did not want to be named, while welcoming the meeting said they were surprised there had been no mention of the current acting principal or board of governors.

“The Board of Governors welcome the involvement of the Children’s Commissioner and hope it is her intention to engage with the school directly,” said the Board member.

“We are surprised a former principal and chair were mentioned but no reference to the current principal and Board of Governors,

“However, we welcome any engagement.”

An internal review by the Education Authority (EA) in December 2016 highlighted serious health, safety and wellbeing concerns for students at the school.

Mr Beattie said: “I met with the Commissioner for Children and Young People – Koulla Yiasouma – along with a former chair of the Board of Governors and a former school principal from the area to highlight our concerns about the Lurgan Campus based on the 2016 internal review.

“This review, in part, focused on a number of issues including the wellbeing and safeguarding of students at the campus as well as site security from a health and safety perspective. Its findings were shocking and should rightly cause concerns for any parent who has allowed their child to be educated in this environment but it should also send out a message to all politicians and political parties that we are failing the children who it is our duty to protect.

“In the review students said they felt self-conscious, stressed, vulnerable and frightened while conducting Physical Education (PE). This was due to them being watched by adults from the Southern Regional College - who share the site – or when they had to walk across town in their PE kit to avail of facilities. These facilities were open to the public who could take pictures of the children at any time as they conducted PE.

“It was clear that the commissioner had never seen this report, indeed it seems this report has been suppressed.

“Therefore the question must be asked did the Minster for Education at the time have sight of this report and if he did why did he not take immediate action given the report stated on numerous occasions ‘that in relation to personal safety of pupils this campus is not fit for purpose’.

“As a public representative I cannot sit back and allow this situation to persist.”

He said: “The commissioner will be writing to the EA Chief Executive – Gavin Boyd – and to the ETI to highlight her concerns.”

Asked why he had not involved either the Board of Governors or current acting principal in the meeting, he said the present Board of Governors knew about the 2016 report but did not make it public “neither did they engage with the Children’s Commissioner given the devastating nature of the report”.