Education news

Enniskillen split site causing problems at newly-amalgamated grammar school

The Enniskillen Royal Grammar School site at the former home of Portora Royal School
Gareth McKeown

STUDENTS at a newly-amalgamated Fermanagh school have been forced to fork out for taxis to attend sports training, while staff are missing parts of lessons due to travel between the split sites.

The Enniskillen Royal Grammar School opened its doors on September 1 as a merger of Portora Royal School and Enniskillen Collegiate Grammar.

Former education minister John O'Dowd announced the amalgamation in November 2014. The decision provoked outrage from some parents at the Collegiate, with a legal challenge taken by a pupil defeated in the High Court.

The new school operates on the sites of the two former schools at Lough Shore Road and Cooper Crescent, on opposite ends of the town. The location for a new site has yet to be agreed.

Since the new term began the school has experienced problems as pupils have been forced to pay for taxis to attend sports training sessions in the evenings, while staff regularly miss break, lunch and part of classes due to travel between the two sites, often at times of peak traffic congestion.

Boys at the Cooper Crescent site travelling to rugby practice at the Lough Shore site and girls at the former Portora site wishing to attend hockey training at Cooper Crescent have been affected, with local councillor Raymond Farrell alerted to the issue by concerned parents last month.

The DUP representative has since contacted the school to try to resolve matters.

Enniskillen Royal Grammar School principal Elizabeth Armstrong, the former head of Enniskillen Collegiate, told the Irish News that free private transport for students travelling between the sites for extra-curricular activities has been in place for over two weeks.

"There were two issues - we had to see numbers and how they would settle down and find a transport provider that wasn't being used for school runs," she said.

"We have secured that now and that has been sorted."

Ms Armstrong admitted there may have "been a breakdown in communication once or twice" in relation to transport, but said the school regularly offers paid taxis for pupils travelling to other schools in the town as part of the Fermanagh Learning Community.

In relation to reports staff were missing lessons, the principal said teachers were not missing a full class.

"Most of that travel is within break or lunch time, but where that hasn't been possible to avoid then there may be a situation where they miss part of a lesson," she said.

"They're not missing a period, that would be utterly wrong, they might leave the period some minutes early or arrive some minutes late, but there's another teacher that covers and work is set.

"These are all part of the issues of managing a split site, but obviously we're listening to what pupils and parents are telling us and refining things all the time."

Mr Farrell said he was satisfied steps have now been taken at the school to address the issues.

"Largely speaking we're looking at a split site scenario where people are really finding their way. For example comuting from one site to the other, timetables, after-school activities and the process then of trying to get through a town maybe at a congested time," he said.

"I have to say the school has been very supportive in terms of communicating with me on this and I know every effort was being made to resolve this as soon as possible."

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