Members of the Foyle Branch of the Labour Partyhave voiced several concerns with the church’s plans for a radical shake-up of Catholic post-primary education in the city.
In a document published on Friday, the party’s secretary, a former teacher and Western Education and Library Board Education Officer, says some the changes being proposed are significantly flawed.
Paul Haslam says that while plans announced by Monsignor Eamon Martin recently are ultimately progressive in their thinking, there are still a number of problems with the controversial “Together Towards Tomorrow’ document.
Speaking to the ‘Sunday Journal’, Mr. Haslam said: “The Labour Party would like to challenge the trustees on a number of issues. In particular, it is our strong view that the document does not rise to the challenge of how reconciliation can be achieved through a separated school system.
“It would be the Party’s view that there needs to be a wide-ranging debate on the educational needs of all our children in the post-primary sector and how they can be satisfied.”
The Labour Party’s response document also asks why St Patrick’s and St Brigid’s College in Claudy has been omitted from schools in the area currently under discussion.
The report states: “This school is presently an important member of the Foyle Learning Partnership and in general is thought of by parents and the community as a Derry school. Its inclusion within the Derry area could widen the possibilities for the provision of post-primary education in the city and in particular on the East Bank.”
Speaking on behalf of the party locally, Mr. Haslam said the proposals for a number of 11-16, all-ability, mixed schools together with one or two sixth form colleges is to be welcomed.
He added: “It would be the view of the Party that the sixth-form colleges should be open to all pupils from the area and that their governance might take account of that. It’s also unfortunate that the role and relationship of the North West Regional College with the post-16 provision in the proposals is not set out.”
In one of a number of reccomendations put forward, the Labour party’s local branch has suggested the establishment of a sixth-form college on the East Bank catering for all pupils in the area, including Claudy.
In conclusion, Mr. Haslam said: “In particular, the party feels that a considerable number of functions as set out in the ‘Evolution of the Partnership’ should be ones for the Area Learning Partnership as they are common to all schools and some of the proposals seem distinctly divisive.
“The party would like to suggest that, as part of of the re-organisation of local government, there should be established a Learning Partnership for all aspects of education and learning in the city,
“We are determined that the city has an education system that is fit for purpose and that will prepare its citizens for the needs of the 21st century.”