Parents angry at plans

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Parents have hit out at plans for a radical shake up of post primary Catholic education in Derry.

More than 120 people attended a meeting of the Derry Grammar Schools Parents Association this week to discuss the proposals included in ‘Together Towards Tomorrow,’ published recently by Diocesan Administrator, Monsignor Eamon Martin.

Parents voiced their anger at a lack of proper consultation about the plans which could signal the end of academic selection, single sex schools and the creation of two new sixth-form colleges.

The parents believe that the implementation of the plans would promote social inequality and stifle parental choice by what was labelled “zoning” - the basing of school admissions on the pupils’ addresses.

Meeting organiser Gerard Roarty said yesterday that parents were concerned about two major issues surrounding the plans - a lack of consultation with parents and the fact that the plans only relate to Catholic grammars in Derry city.

“This is planned for Derry city only and it will then only affect Catholic-run grammar schools, a move which discriminates against Derry - if only a handful of grammar schools are left then they will way out perform other schools as has been proved in England. We’re asking the bishops not to hang Derry out to dry. If there is such a strong argument for the abolition of grammar schools then it’s important to convince all sides of the community and in all areas of Northern Ireland and not only those involved in Catholic grammar schools in the Derry city area.”

Mr Roarty added: “People are really angry at the fact that consultation with them hasn’t happened - it is both inequitable and unchristian. The consultation we were promised seems to be all happening between the Church and the teachers while the parents are being left to surf the web for information on what’s happening.”

During the meeting one parent said the adoption of the plans would mean children will go to the worst performing secondary schools in the city because of where they live. “It’s the children from disadvantaged areas that are going to be worst affected.” Another said her biggest fear is that parents in the city “are simply not aware” of the plans.

The proposals are open for consultation until June 22. The Church has invited parents to respond to the plans.