THE erosion of Catholic education in Portadown must not be allowed to continue, the principal of Drumcree College said at the recent prize day.
Noel Bullock said if Drumcree College ceased to exist there would be “far-reaching repercussions for the community as a whole”.
The school has been earmarked for closure by the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools and the Southern Education Board.
Mr Bullock said responses to the consultation document, aimed at shaping the future of secondary education, were “overwhelming” and “unforeseen”. “The message has been delivered that people are no longer prepared to accept solutions which are ill-thought out and poorly researched,” he said.
“As a result, the timescale for announcements from the Minister for Education appears to have been further delayed. We are approaching a low point in numbers in schools that has led to a surplus of seats throughout Northern Ireland. That situation is now changing and in 10 years’ time, if proposed changes happen now, there will not be enough seats for all pupils.”
He added, “I hope this will encourage parents of primary 7 children and indeed those coming behind to realise that they need have no fear in sending their children to Drumcree College. The college is in the heart of the community and is at the heart of the community.
“Despite rumour, despite speculation, despite numerous deadlines, Drumcree College is still here and thriving. Not only was there not the predicted exodus of students to other schools at the start of this academic year, our numbers have increased.
“I want to pay tribute to the committee of staff, parents and other interested members of the community who have worked tirelessly in addressing the negativity that was created by this review.”
Looking back on a full and successful year, Mr Bullock said the Extended Schools Programme covered many activities and was highly praised in a recent monitoring visit from the SELB.
He said, “Our success in the BT Young Scientist continues with not one but two of our projects going through to the next stage. The Year 11 Business Studies class were involved in doing market research for a games company called Mindlogic which is based in New York. They had to do a video conference with the chief executive officer of the company. What an experience!
“We had students taking part in a film production for a local film company BNL Productions. We have been involved with the talent show, trade fair at Rushmere, merit trips, fundraising for local charities and the shoe box appeal for the House of Mercy Orphanage in India which we are supporting this year again. Staff and students were involved in the Belfast Marathon. In total, almost £5000 was raised for different charities.”
On the sports front, he said a number of long-standing records were smashed at sports day. There was a mention for Conor Larkin who spent a week in London on trial with Tottenham Hotspur as a goalkeeper and has been invited back for further trials after Christmas.
He also congratulated all the other students who represented the school in sports events throughout the year.
He added, “They say success breeds success. At Key Stage 3 there is a continual progress in the results in English, mathematics and science. Again, I want to congratulate the teachers and especially the pupils for their excellent efforts. Those pupils have now begun their GCSE courses and we have high expectations for them.
“In the GCSE examinations this year every pupil achieved at least one GCSE grade. The pupils who achieved five plus A*-C grades increased by 12 per cent.
“I congratulate all our pupils on their achievements. I want to thank the Board of Governors for their help and support throughout the year, my senior management team for all the tireless work they do and everyone who works in the school.
“To paraphrase from a letter sent to Mr O’Dowd by our deputy head girl Charlotte Conway, Drumcree College is more than just a school, it’s a family where we learn together, grow together and sometimes even argue with each other.”