Wholeschool Portal | Home 22 March 2018
 Board of Governors



A Statement from the Board of Governors  


Ballymena Academy Cares for the Individual

and Inspires Learning and Achievement



1.  Introduction


1.1       TheBoard of Governors of Ballymena Academy (‘The Board’) has agreed thisbrief statement on several important matters with which post-primaryschools are currently dealing, and about which there is muchuncertainty.


1.2       BallymenaAcademy is a school with long traditions and a proud record.  It is a popular school.  Itis held in high esteem within the wide and varied community which itserves and enjoys the confidence of its pupils and their parents.


1.3       Overthe years the school has adapted and changed to meet differingeducational and social circumstances and it will continue to do so inthe future.


1.4       The Board believes that there must be judicious and significant change in the education system of Northern Ireland.  Ithas supported the Governing Bodies Association’s engagement withvarious Ministers and Civil servants and endorses these efforts toinfluence the development of a system better placed to meet the needsof all of Northern Ireland’s young people, as well as the economic and communal needs of this society.


1.5       Whatis required is a democratically-derived, well-planned andcarefully-structured programme to enable better achievement for all andgive value for money in terms of public expenditure on education.


2.   Structures


2.1       Northern Ireland needs schools of various types, rather than imposed uniformity.  The value of schools such as BallymenaAcademy, with an academic emphasis and a proven record should not be underestimated.


2.2       TheBoard believes that current policies, if they are not amended, willinstall one-size-fits-all comprehensive schools, against the statedwishes of the people of Northern Ireland and despite the fact that such schools have been shown to fail the very children they purport to help.


2.3       It is a very strange irony that this Government should be promoting comprehensive education for Northern Ireland at the same time as their policies elsewhere in the United Kingdom are finally bringing this model of schooling to a close.



Theinfluence and enthusiasm of vocal and powerful individuals in the CivilService and other educational agencies should not be allowed to subvertour schools to comply with their vision of the future, a vision whichis not shared by the majority of Northern Ireland people.


3.    Post-Primary Admissions


3.1       TheBoard supports any measures which enable young people to attend schoolsin which they can learn and grow and realise their potential.  There is certainly a place for parental preference within a framework in which educational factors have priority.


3.2       TheTransfer Tests have had their day and should be replaced by a robustpupil profile containing objective data about attainment, supported byformative and summative assessment and reports from the Primary School.  Theprocess should be manageable, fit for purpose and avoid unfair orinappropriate parental pressure on Primary School teachers andPrincipals. 


3.3       It makes sense to make this profile available to the receiving schools.  Itshould be used to reach decisions about the extent to which a school islikely to meet a child’s needs, interests, abilities and aspirations.  Sucha process of guided choice will enable oversubscribed schools to makeeducationally and informed decisions rather than having to rely, forexample, on geographical factors.


4.    Declining Pupil Numbers


4.1       Although specific demographic statistics may be disputed, the general population trend is downwards. In any case, Northern Ireland already has more post-primary schools than it needs.


4.2       Economiesof scale, efficient and effective use of public funds and theimperatives of 21st century education mean it is increasingly difficultfor smaller schools to meet the needs of their pupils.  Collaboration can make only partial compensation.  School closures/amalgamations are inevitable.


4.3       Thisschool is already involved in valuable and popular co-operation withthe North-East Institute (NEI), providing vocational courses for sixthformers.  We are keen to explore the potential for further collaboration with NEI, and other schools.


4.4       Decisionson these matters should be policy-led, evidence-driven, clearlycommunicated and promptly implemented, in contrast to the currentapproach which, by allowing schools to ‘wither on the vine’, iseconomically wasteful and educationally destructive.


4.5       Such rationalisation should include all post-primary schools.  Thecurrent practice of forcing grammar schools to accept applicants,regardless of their transfer grade (or indeed their needs andabilities) should be discontinued.  It is arelatively simple matter for the Department to establish a threshold(e.g. B2) which applicants must have if they are to be placed in aschool which selects pupils on the basis of the transfer grade.


5.    Curriculum and SpecialistSchools


5.1       The ending of the highly prescriptive Northern Ireland curriculum at Key Stage 4 is welcome.  BallymenaAcademywill, however, continue to provide all its pupils with a broad,balanced and coherent programme which is in keeping with this school’sethos, its educational emphasis and the pupils’ own abilities andaspirations.


5.2       Thereis merit in the notion of an Entitlement Framework but as this concepthas been presented and defined by the Department of Education it isoverly complex, pedantic and costly.


5.3       TheBoard shares the reservations which have been expressed aboutSpecialist Schools, particularly for Ballymena Academy which aims forexcellence for all in all areas of this school’s life and work.  Initial application has been made for SpecialistSchool status (Science) as the Board believes there are benefits to be gained from entry to the pilot project.  Further discussion will take place before final application is lodged.  TheBoard may also choose to apply for a different specialism in future orindeed to withdraw from the Specialist Schools’ programme.


6.        Review of Public Administration


6.1       The Board welcomes this review as timely and appropriate.


6.2       The chapter on education is much less well-considered than other sections.


6.3       TheBoard supports measures to make public administration more effectiveand less costly and believes that steps to reduce the size of theadministrative bodies are long overdue.


6.4       The Board does not support the centralisation tendency of the proposals for education.  It is particularly concerning to note the way in which Voluntary Grammar Schools are dismissed.  Voluntary Grammar Schools contribute much to Education and have been shown to be cost-effective and efficient.


7.       Time Scales and Planning


7.1       TheBoard supports the emphasis on careful and focused development plansfor schools and has been heavily involved in drawing up the Plan for BallymenaAcademy.


7.2       It is a matter of concern that the Department of Education does not heed its own injunctions on planning.  Thefact that so many areas are to be radically reformed at one and thesame time is indicative of this lack of planning, as are the manyclarifications still needed, and the failure to produce carefullycosted financial plans.


7.3       Thedeadlines and lead-times are becoming increasingly untenable and, ifthe education of children is not to suffer, they must be reconsidered.


8.      Conclusion


8.1       BallymenaAcademyis a confident and forward-looking school working with a Department ofEducation which seems to be characterised by uncertainty of purpose andwhich has yet to publish a coherent and properly costed plan of actionto accomplish the growing backlog of work to be handled by schools.


8.2       Thisschool will continue to work with young people and their families, aswell as other agencies, to provide a high-quality educational servicein this area.


The Board of Governors is fully constituted for the four year term - January, 2017 to December, 2020.  It is as follows:- 





J.T. McKERVILL, LL.B.  [Chairman]

Dr. D. JOHNSTON, O.B.E., M.B., M.Sc., M.Med.Sc., F.R.C.G.P. [Vice-Chairman]

Mrs. J. ALLEN [Hon. Secretary]

Subscriber Representatives



Dr. D. JOHNSTON, O.B.E., M.B., M.Sc., M.Med.Sc., F.R.C.G.P.



Dr. G. PATTERSON, M.A., M.Litt., Ph.D., F.H.E.A.

D.E.N.I. Representatives

E.C.B. JACKSON, B.A., M.Phil., M.Sc.

[Other D.E.N.I. representatives still to be appointed]

Diocesan Council Representatives

Mrs. H. FOSTER, F.C.A., B.A. (Hons.), MPA

Rev. M. McCONNELL, B.Th. with Pastoral Studies


Ballymena Presbytery Representatives

Rev. N.A.L. CAMERON, LL.B., B.D.

Rev. Dr. M.D. McNEELY, B.A., M. Div., Dip. Min.

Rev. W. SINCLAIR, B.A., P.G.C.E., B.D.

Ballymena Borough Council Representatives



Mrs. A. WALES, M.B.E.

Parent Representatives


Mrs. J. MILLAR, B.Ed.

Mrs. T. THOMPSON, B.Sc. (Hons.), ABPI, CALS

Teaching Staff Representatives

Miss C. McALLISTER, B.A. (Hons.), P.G.C.E., S.A.C. Dip. C.C.E.T., D.A.S.E.

Miss R. McVEA, B.A. (Hons.), P.G.C.E., R.S.A. Dip.

Mrs. S. MONTEITH, B.Sc. (Hons.), P.G.C.E.