22 April 2005


Holy Rosary becomes first casualty of education cuts

A mother and toddler group held in Holy Rosary Primary School will close its doors for the last time at the end of this school year, one of the first casualties of the education cuts.

by Evan short

Formed 20 years ago, the Early Years Learning Service meets once a week to prepare pre-school children for their transition to primary school.

Much loved by the local community it is vastly oversubscribed, and each year there is a lengthy waiting list of children wanting to take one of the limited places in the class.

Mrs Diane Boyle, who has a child at the group, is furious that the funding has been withdrawn.

“This is a great wee group and the children love it. It’s brilliant preparation for when they go to the main school and we are all devastated that it is being closed down.

“No one from the Education Board has come to see the work that is done here, they are just making the decisions knowing nothing about us.
“It’s not as if it is expensive. They only have to pay four salaries, the school provides all the facilities,” she said.

Sean Merrick is Headmaster of Holy Rosary Primary School and he said he was also very sorry to lose the class.

“I am very disappointed as the Early Years learning service is of great value. It benefits the children by developing their social skills, and the parents also get a great deal from it, learning strategies for helping their children develop at home. Everyone at Holy Rosary will be very sorry to see it go.”

Eithne Gorman has been a teacher with the programme for 20 years, and is now having to face up to the reality that as of September, she will no longer be taking the group. I am extremely annoyed that such a valuable service is being lost. Our experience is working with parents and children and all that is being lost with the closing of the service.

“We have been told we will be redeployed elsewhere, but it is a shame that our expertise will go to waste,” she said.

Eithne and the other staff have been approached by some of the parents to help them in the campaign to get the funding reinstated.

“Over the years the parents have given us support, so there is no reason why we should not help them in their fight to restore this valuable service.
“There are 180 pupils who benefit from the service throughout Belfast, and they are all going to lose out when we have our funding withdrawn."
Belfast Education Library Board confirmed that the Early Years Learning Service was going to be affected by funding cuts.

“We can confirm that there is a proposal going to the board to close the Early Years Learning service, comprising two teachers and two classroom assistants.

“This non-statutory service was set up at a time when there was no pre school provision. This is now provided through PEAG playgroups, the Surestart scheme and various parenting initiatives. Additionally at that time, there was no enriched curriculum provision. Therefore we believe the needs of these children can continue to be met without the use of this service, through these different methods of support.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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