Drumcree College pupil pens letter to the Minister

COPY of a letter sent to Education Minister John O’Dowd by Drumcree College pupil Charlotte Conway.

Dear Minister O’Dowd,

I would first like to introduce myself; I am Charlotte Conway, deputy head girl of Drumcree College. Here in our community, we have a valuable service that at the minute is under threat. I am a 5th year student currently studying in my second year of my GCSEs. I love my school and I am totally devastated by the fact that my school is under threat of closure.

Our school is the only Catholic secondary school in Portadown and it is also at the heart of our community and has been for many years. Our community is a Catholic community which leads me to the question, why remove our religious identity, by closing the only Catholic secondary school in our town?

Just like the foundations of a house, our community could not function without our community school. Apart from the fact that the pupils will be shipped off to a totally strange school, in a different community, where they know no-one, become a number in a bigger class, in a bigger school, they will undoubtedly face further complications and unnecessary pressure.

My heart goes out to the staff at Drumcree College, not only the principal or teachers but everyone involved in the running of our school.

Another factor is the threat of losing jobs. Without this school the number of unemployed people will rise. With unemployment statistics high, this would be a further financial drain on our community.

No-one could replace the staff and teachers as they put their all into every pupil in our school. I feel this is a very unfair decision as those involved in the closure of our school are basing everything on numbers and statistics, and they have not spent one week or even one day in our school. No-one is listening to us, the pupils. Ironically, this process is supposed to be about ‘putting pupils first’. However, we seem to be the last people to be considered.

It states in article 12 of ‘The Rights of the Child’ that we, as children, have the right to give our opinion and for adults to listen and take our opinions seriously. Often, children’s views are completely ignored or forgotten and adults make decisions without consulting with children. In my opinion, at this time we are not being put first, or taken seriously, or even listened to by the decision makers.

Article 28 also states ‘you have the right to a good quality education. You should be encouraged to go to school to achieve the highest level you can’. I feel strongly that the best education for me is at Drumcree College, where I am known individually as are my classmates. Every teacher knows us by name and takes the time to speak to each and every one of us. I am not just another pupil number and to me this is ‘quality education’, where teachers know you personally and have the time to help you do the best you can; unlike bigger classes, in bigger schools, where it is impossible for teachers to spend one-to-one time with every single pupil.

I would like to finish off my letter by saying that our school is one of the best in Northern Ireland, not because of statistics and pupil numbers, but because of the happy experience and attention every pupil gets. The staff in our school bends backwards for every pupil, to help them achieve and grow into mature young adults. The staff really does care and this is rare. It’s not only a school, it is a big family.