‘It’s dire – we are on life support,’ says Stranmillis College Board Chairman

Social share:

 

Listen to the blunt warning from Stephen Costello, Chairman of the Board of Governors of Stranmillis College.  He argues the teacher training centre is doomed in absence of merger with Queen’s:

 

 

 

 


Social share:

About Author

Avatar photo

I am a regular contributor to discussion programmes on TV and radio both at home and abroad. An experienced political editor and author specialising in Politics, Security and 20th Century Art.

22 Comments

  1. not exactly up to date with the situation…..however, for what it is worth…..in 1963 st jo’s was being refurbished so the 16 or so 4th yr St Jo’S physical education students were transferred to stranmillis college for the year, total of 34.    These 4th year PE students worked, drank, gambled, played and chased the girls together to the extent that mutual respect and toleration became part of their DNA.          Naturally, this was intolerable to the authorities so the next year the previous medieval programmes were revisited.  This was a golden year which i was privileged to be part of………by definition i believe that subsequent students were less privileged.       Dawn Purvis apart, the major politicians and educationalists of northern ireland should be ashamed of themselves.

  2. Mr Costello’s account of imminent financial meltdown at Stranmillis College reveals one more example of Unionist politicians ‘throwing out the baby with the bath water’. Systemic inefficiencies in the controlled schools’ sector has failed working class Protestant children since the foundation of the Northern Ireland state.
    One can only imagine the self-perpetuating, negative impact which a financially distressed Stranmillis College will have on the quality of its graduate output. Far from radically addressing the educational deficit in the controlled schools’ sector, a situation which is entirely at the behest of Unionist politicians will exacerbate the existing failures of those schools.
    When the management of Stranmillis College warns of the jeopardy and foolhardiness of maintaining the staus quo Unionist politicians should listen; that is if they understood the extent of the failure OR if they wished to do something to improve the lot of their constituency.
    Perhaps adherence to past illusions of righteous separateness, however delusional is more important to Unionists than providing quality, equitable educational opportunity to the Protestant working class.

  3. Mr Costello states that by the end of 2012 the College will be in deficit to the tune of £50k and that in the following 3-4 years, the deficit will increase to £500k. In 2008, staff at Stranmillis were informed that the College would have a deficit of £500k by 2011. It is understood that the accounts for 2010/2011, although not yet published, will show a surplus of £63k. Is it possible then that the £500k deficit forecast by Mr Costello might also turn out to be a surplus?
    He states that there is a maintenance backlog of £9m but doesn’t add that £3m of that is estimated to be the cost of restoring a building which is not required for teaching and learning and which is, in fact, not needed at present for use by the College, having been replaced by a new facility. The *building in question is ‘listed’ and, although Stranmillis has a legal obligation under the Environmental Heritage legislation to maintain it, Government would be required to fund the building works within what is a state funded institution.
    Mr Costello makes comparison between the £1.6m capital investment in the College from DEL over the next 4 years, with the £16m ‘offer’ from Queen’s, stating that it would take DEL 40 years to match Queen’s ‘investment’. What he doesn’t say is, of that £16m, £3m for the *Henry Garrett building is not required and £7m (Appendix 3 of the Stranmillis Business case for the proposed merger with Queen’s) is money earmarked by Queen’s for the infrastructure required to enable its School of Education to move to the Stranmillis site and is not therefore needed if the merger doesn’t go ahead.
    Mr Costello states that the Equality Commission is ‘happy’ for the merger to proceed subject to it seeing the final legislation which will protect Stranmillis’s ethos. What he doesn’t say, is that in its response to the Public Consultation on The proposed discontinuance of Stranmillis University College and its proposed merger with the Queen’s University of Belfast, the Equality Commission says, ‘we are however concerned that the EQIA consultation that was carried out into the merger did not anticipate any negative impacts on any of the nine equality grounds‘ and that they ‘have reservations in relation to the potential impact on the availability of places for teachers from the Protestant/Other communities, the ethos and proposed governance arrangements for the new structure’. Mr Costello also mentions a Stakehoders Group but it should be emphasised that this group will have an advisory remit only with no executive powers.
    He says that less than 10 catholic students will come into the new school (per year?) ‘if you look at the figures’. He doesn’t indicate which figures he refers to and since Queen’s, as a secular institution, enrols students purely on merit, it is unlikely that he is in a position to make such a bold prediction. He goes on to say that (based on his figures) it would take 25 years to change the breakdown of the 26,000 teaching population by 1%. What he doesn’t say is what the present religious make-up of that 26,000 teaching population is.
    Mr Costello talks about the creation of a ‘world class school of education’ but doesn’t mention that the College’s own website stated that ‘The College’s track record in teacher education since 1922 has been second to none’.
    He says that the College is in a grave situation and will be in permanent deficit from next year, but has he taken cognisance of previous forecasts and predictions which have proved to be wildly inaccurate?
    Staff were told in 2008 that there was only a gloomy future for the College and that by 2011 it would in a perilous financial situation. The reality is that, despite the pessimism of those who would promote a merger with Queen’s, the grim reaper has moved on to ply his trade elsewhere. 

  4.  I am disgusted that Mr Costello paints the College of which he is the Chair of Governors in such an appalling light.  Stranmillis is not on ‘life support’.  Stranmillis is a vibrant and lively place made possible by the enthusiasm and determination of its staff and students but obviously not its Governors

    The College is not falling apart although the Governors would have us believe that staff are sitting depressed in cold offices with buildings falling around their ears.  Nothing could be further from reality.  Anyone who visits the College would immediately observe the fabulous new state of the art, award winning, Orchard Building and the high quality of teaching and learning spaces within the Central Building.  The refurbishnment of Central Building has been done over the last 3 years, irrespective of the dire warnings from Mr Costello in 2008 that the College had no money.  He claimed that the College should now be £500k in deficit which it clearly isn’t.

    Staff are dedicated to their students and whilst Mr Costello is busy pursuing ‘world class research’ within a merger with QUB the staff are busy providing high quality teaching and learning experiences to produce the ‘world class teachers’ which they have for several generations. They see this as their goal not research.

    Where did Mr Costello get his 10 Catholic students from?  It is quite evident from working in the College that around 25% of the students engaged on a BEd course to be a teacher is from the Catholic tradition. The percentages are higher for the Health and Leisure degree and the degree in Early Childhood Studies. So where does the 10 come from?  

    The majority of staff are not in favour of the merger and are fed up living in this ‘limbo land’ created by the Governors.  Can the Englishman now resident in Tipperary not accept that the merger is not wanted and  let staff get on with the job they do so well.  A Chairperson of our Governors should be promoting the fabulous College we have and singing its accomplishments not sticking the knife in at every opportunity.  Perhaps it is time for him to move on as staff no longer have any confidence in him or the Board of Governors.

  5. To hear the Chair of the Governors of Stranmillis College talk down the college in such a negative manner is shocking and sad.  If anyone reads the submissions to the consultation it is obvious that most are not in favour of the move towards the discontinuance of Stranmillis College and its take-over by QUB. It is not a part of a comprehensive review of how and where teachers should be trained in Northern Ireland – it is a piecemeal decision with no proper strategic basis.  It is a travesty of justice in terms of equality of treatment in relation to St Mary’s College which is not being required to similarly discontinue.  Furthermore – the consultation was limited and unrepresentative.  When were the staff consulted?  When were the students consulted? Was there space for everyone’s voice to be heard?  I hope the politicians will perceive the contradictions inherent in this campaign and make the wise decision to preserve Stranmillis as a centre of excellence in teacher education so that our state schools and the children who attend them are not disadvantaged in the future.

  6. I am astonished that the Chair of the Board of Governors of Stranmillis should be in such a hurry to donate the heritage and facilities of Stranmillis to QUB – surely you would expect the Chair to be the last one standing to defend the college and its independence.

    Stranmillis and St Mary’s have made a fantastic contribution to teacher education over the past decades and all should be done to ensure they continue to serve both communities in N. Ireland. These 2 institutions should be the providers of teacher training, bringing their expertise and heritage to a vital public service.

    Former Student

  7. educationalist on

    According to the last year’s financial report, Stranmillis registered a surplus. With the quality of the teaching staff and the reputation for excellence there is every reason to conclude that this trend will continue. Surely Mr Costello should be the last person to be talking the college down. I find this interview very strange indeed. Can anyone shred light on his motivation? 

    As for Mr Costello’s diminishing words and pejorative attitude of “lifting Stranmillis to a world class college” he should know better: Stran IS already a world class college sought by many.

    I suggest that rather than closing this great institution he should be doing all in his powers to protect it and to support the staff who have served teacher education so significantly over the past decades. If I were a staff member I would have 2 questions:

    1. Does he not realise how damaging these comments are to the morale of the team at Stranmillis?

    2. Why is our Captain so keen to jump ship?

    Finally, surely QUB has enough to focus on in the area of research. Let the professionals be the professionals – in short let St Mary’s and Stranmillis train those who serve in our schools.

  8. It would appear that S Costello, chairperson of Stranmillis College, is deliberately trying to mislead the public, misquoting facts and figures.He stated this week that, from the end of August 2012, the college would be in a deficit by £50,000 and by half a million in the 3/4 year period. How can this be so when the college has been recording a surplus over the last number of years.

    In the projected business plan for the merger, forwarded to Government, he forecast a deficit of over £600,000 in 2009/2010. The College was in surplus by over £870,000. How can Government give credence to such blatant inaccuracies? How can we, the public, believe what S. Costello is telling us?

    Instead of being proud of Stranmillis College, which has always been held in high esteem, he portrays it as falling apart,on life support and in dire straits.This is not the response expected from a chairperson, and the language he used in this interview is deplorable! It might be better if the chairperson of Stranmillis College was someone resident in this country!

    Perhaps Mr Costello should take note of the pride and loyalty that the Board of Governors of St Mary’s  has for their College. They will never give up their Catholic ethos, traditions and values.
    Well done, St. Mary’s!

  9. Stephen Farry is in the unique position of making a decision which could positively change the way in which our children will be educated – the children are our future after all.  I hope that he has the strength of character to investigate the information provided to him and determine for himself the truth about Stranmillis.  Stranmillis is not on ‘life support’ nor is it in dire straits! 

    Mr Farry did visit Stranmillis, but was not allowed to wander the campus & view for himself….he was guided and shown what was deemed suitable to be shown.  The College is not falling apart, as Mr Costello would have you believe.  I would encourage one and all to visit Stranmillis & walk around to view just how beautiful it is, how well equipped the teaching facilities are & how wonderful the staff & students are.  Mr Costello do you not realise how demoralising your comments are to staff & students?  Why have you decided to produce a podcast instead of talking directly to staff & students collectively?  Mr Costello your comments are very negative – you don’t seem to be aware of how great Stranmillis University College  truly is…..staff, students, buildings & land!  Mr Costello when was the last time you actually made yourself accessible to staff & students?  Your role as Chairman is to ensure the best for the campus, students & staff…..!  Why then it your decision to merge with QUB is not fully supported?

    If a truly shared future is sought by our politicians then BOTH St Mary’s UC and Stranmillis UC should merge with QUB or alternatively they should be left to continue offering ITE.

    Has anybody actually determined the numbers, through FoI, of Catholic, Protestant & Other students in QUB, UU, St Mary’s & Stranmillis?  Why not postpone any decision making until the results of the recent CENSUS are available? Will the intake figures for St Mary’s increase should the merger between SUC & QUB take place?  If so, would this be considered fair?

    QUB is ideally placed to help get the NI economy moving through research & development.  Let QUB do what they do best & leave the education of teachers to St Mary’s & Stranmillis University Colleges.
    I agree with QUB graduate…. ‘It might be better if the chairperson of Stranmillis College was someone resident in this country!’

  10. A Life Long Learner on

    As a member of the general public who has been attending one of the ‘Life Long Learning’ courses at Stranmillis College, I am shocked at the description given by Mr Costello regarding the state of the college.  Has he walked round the grounds of the college, on his visits from Tipp (who pays his mileage and other expenses when he visits? – surely its not HIS  ‘money strapped’ college) and seen the new building and refurbishment that has gone on. During my time in the college I have been impressed by the quality of the teaching and the positive attitude of the staff.

    If Mr Costello was a CEO of a company – the damage he would cause to the company by his negative reporting and undermining of the position of the activities of the company would lead to immediate demands for his resignation and that of the Board. With regards to Stranmillis College, this man must go before he does any further damage. It is obvious that he does not have the best interests of the college at heart and one must wonder why he is in such a position – what does he hope to get out of it – has he been promised a place on the Honours List and a call to the Palace if he can carry through a merger?

  11. Mr Costello has made the biggest mistake of his life.  By communicating to the general public and the staff of Stranmillis College by this media, he has given everyone the opportunity to oppose him and voice their disgust at his actions.  He has shown himself up for what he is and it is clear he is not the type of chairperson that Stranmillis college needs or wants. Mr Costello should learn from the Japanese and ‘fall on his sword’.  He has placed himself in a situation that if the merger does not go ahead then he can no longer remain Chairperson of the Board. If however it does go ahead, it would be interesting to see, as one commentator suggested, if a ‘call to the Palace’ is his reward or if the negative publicity surrounding the merger will cost him his Knighthood.

  12. The role of S. Costello as chair of Stranmillis University College is to promote and defend the college’s reputation.
     
    This role has been undertaken in a most admirable and dignified way by the chair of St Mary’s  and he is to be congratulated.
     
    However, the attitude and language used by S. Costello in this interview indicates that this man is unsuitable to hold public office.
     

  13. I was appalled to hear Costello’s comments about Stranmillis. As Chair person he has not consulted with either staff or students, but is deciding the future of Stranmillis from a very limited perspective. I appreciate that he is hoping to make a name for himself in his twilight years as the person who over saw the merger, but he is misinformed and self centered. Let Queen’ s get on with what they do best – research and leave Stranmmillis to do what it does best – producing future high class teachers. 

  14. Mr Costello has shown in this interview exactly what many at Stranmillis have known for some years. Here is a man who would scurry to plead his case to Eamonn Mallie but refused point blank to answer questions from his own staff when he dropped the bombshell that the College had accepted an offer from Queen’s to merge with Stranmillis. Of course, prior to Mr Costello’s meeting with staff on 18 April, they (the staff) had arrived home on 17 April 2008 to hear about the proposed merger on that night’s news bulletins in an interview with…yes, you’ve guessed it, Steve Costello. Apparently he said that he was ”caught on the hop” when he gave that interview informing the media about the proposed merger. A reliable source, however, assures me that he didn’t just happen to stumble across the camera crew and interviewer that evening and that the interview was pre-arranged. Naughty, naughty Steve!!

    It’s unfortunate that the College has had to put up with such a reprehensible character, who along with his  cronie, Doreen Bell, has dominated the Governing Body and bullied them along the way. I understand he has traversed his ‘guns’ on his own staff now with what some might consider to be a view to seek some sort of  retribution. However; such is the way with bullies, that they usually get their come-uppance. Were it not for the serious damage I feel has been done to Stranmillis’s reputation by this buffoon and his sidekick, you might be forgiven for thinking that Costello & Bell were a comedy duo. In another world at another time perhaps, but not here, not now.

    So Stevie boy, time for you and your compadre Bell to pay the ferryman…oh! and please shut the door on your way out. 

  15. Cllr David Barbour on

    Any Chairman who fails to stand firm for his/her organisation should resign and go to where he/she is most comfortable.  If you study the Equality Inpact Assessment consultation several things are clear: 1) Stran is vastly the largest teacher training college, Queens is very marginal in that activity. 2) St Mary’s Roman Catholic College was able to stay out of the merger debate 3) Stran is more attractive to Protestants while Queen’s is more attractive to Roman Catholics 4) Stran admits over 6 times more people in the 18-24 age group whereas Queen’s admits over 2 times more people in the older groups. Queen’s caters much more for adults in parttime training and Stran specialises more on fulltime training. If Gerry Adams can support St Mary’s College remaining apart then Unionist leaders have every right to ask that Stranmillis retains its mostly Protestant Ethos.  With previous allegations that Queen’s has become a cold house for unionists, it needs to get its act together before it can claim neutral ground.  However, is neutral grounds desirable when the particular Christian ethos is important?  I think that Stranmillis has more to lose in any merger.  Queen’s as a much more secular society would soon dilute both Stranmillis and St Mary’s if both were to join. 

  16. Seeker of justice on

    The Eamonn Mallie interview has provided staff and the public with an opportunity to put the record straight regarding the true situation at Stranmillis.
     
    Staff, until now, have been fearful of putting their heads above the parapet in case their jobs were placed in jeopardy or other action taken against them. It is well known that Costello does not take kindly to persons expressing negative views of his plan to gift 50 acres of the most valuable land in Belfast to QUB (worth possibly around £100 million.) The other reasons given for this plan are simply window dressing.

    Costello has been exposed in this interview and now has no option but to resign his position and spend more time in his home in Co.Tipperary in the Republic of Ireland.
    This interview must be a total embarrassment to all involved – i.e. QUB and the Civil Servants encouraging Costello to succeed with his plan.

    The independent powers remaining now have no option but to replace the present small, compliant governing body with a larger and more representative group, made up of members capable of independent thought and unwilling to be ‘led by the nose’ by a person of Costello’s ilk.

  17. I have listened to the interview with S. Costello, chairperson of Stranmillis University College and I have read the comments with interest.
    Having been a student at Stranmillis, I can only say that I am appalled at the language used by this man. Instead of fighting for this first class teacher training college,
    he is seeking to destroy it.
    This man is not fit to be in office and I hope someone somewhere – staff or MLAs – will have him removed and someone put in place
    who will be fit for the job.

     
      Disgusted former student

  18. Dodgy Car Dealer on

    ‘Its dire – we are on life support’ – this may be very true Mr Costello down in Co.Tipperary in the Republic of Ireland but certainly not here at Stranmillis College, Belfast.  Your comments sound very much like a ‘dodgy used car dealer’ who points out every dent and bump on a very much loved car and by the time he has finished you feel grateful that he makes an offer to take it off your hands.  

    Why are you so determined to ridicule the college in public and to present the bleakest picture possible?  You have repeatedly mis-represented and disregarded the views of the Stranmillis staff and inaccurately reported on the state of buildings,  college budget deficit,  teaching conditions and religious make up of student numbers.  I f any of this were correct then you would be wholly responsible as it was on ‘your watch’ that it would have taken place.
    Dodgy car dealers never last long before their lies, false promises and deception are made public.

  19. Much has been written and said about the merger between Stranmillis University College and QUB.  As a Governor I wish to put the record straight on a number of issues.
    Firstly I, like colleagues, was appointed through the Public Appointment’s process presumably because I had something to offer the Governing Body having been in education now for 58 years.  I am a past student of the college (1967-70) and also have a vested interest in its success.
    When I read comments written by members of staff, their friends and others under pseudonyms personally criticising the Chair and Governors I become annoyed.  Yes by all means criticise the argument or challenge the facts but I do not believe people have the right to personalise that criticism.  Many of the comments made have been disingenuous at the best or misleading at the worst.  The facts speak for themselves.
    Firstly both staff and students are represented on the Governing body which has regularly praised the staff and students for their commitment and achievements (just see the Minutes of meetings).  At every stage in the merger process the Governors have put in place arrangements to ensure that the Stranmillis ‘community’ is kept informed of the very detailed progress which takes place (I am not involved in these details but receive regular reports on it).
    The decision to merge with QUB was taken ‘with a heavy heart’ but only after considering all the facts and future predictions presented to the Governors.  However, having taken that decision my efforts are put into ensuring the best future for the college, its staff and students and most importantly the future of teaching and learning for those in the system and those still to be born.  The principles of public office mean that I cannot take decisions which will in the future put the college into a deficit and that is clearly the prediction for the future.  The responsibility for that lies in the hands of the funders, ie the politicians.  The money funding the college depends on a number of factors including the number of students (which by the way is determined by DE) and we already have a major over-supply of teachers in NI.  There is no hiding the fact that unless more money is available the college will be in deficit before long.  Do not take surpluses at face value but look at the steps taken by the senior management team which increases income or the exceptional items (which could equally have been payments).  There is no doubt in my mind that the figures demonstrate that unless the funding is increased staff redundancies will have to be considered and implemented.  This is not a scare tactic but a reality check and most unpleasant for both the decision makers and the recipients.
    No one has said that the College’s buildings are collapsing around us but there is a major maintenance deficit and QUB have agreed to invest to ensure that the buildings etc are kept in the optimum condition.  The capital budget available to Governors is reducing as in all public bodies. The QUB investment in the Stranmillis campus should be welcomed and there are legal safeguards to ensure the campus remains for the use of teacher education.
    I do not have much expertise in finance but do those who criticise the economic appraisal (the business case)?  This business case was collated by independent consultants and approved by civil servants and the politicians.  Those with the expertise have accepted it as being an accurate and true appraisal of the situation.
    The Chair may be ‘an Englishman living in Tipp’ but for the record in all the time as a member of the Governing Body he has not taken a single penny in expenses.  Indeed his capacity as Chair, because of his personal and selfless decision, has come at considerable expense to his own pocket.  I trust those who hide behind pseudonyms will now apologise for making those unfounded and untrue allegations. 
    I have no doubt that Steve Costello considers carefully all the advice he is given, listens to the arguments and yes, having come to a decision,  promotes that with vigour and determination to ensure that the best deal for staff and students is achieved.  The time for argument was prior to the decision making process and I did present arguments but I repeat the Governing Body is in no doubt that a deficit will come – it may be later than originally predicted.
    There are other arguments outside the role and remit of the Governors for SUC but those arguments are for the politicians. Please do not blame us for the delay or process when all that we have attempted to do is to fulfil the role we agreed to undertake.  I have only taken decisions or contributed to the debate in the best interests of the College and in accordance with the principles of public appointments, as do my fellow Governors.

  20. Let me not put a tooth in it – the Stephen Costello interview is typical of an Irish citizen and resident of Irish Republic and  who wants to play – and has for a number of years played – an active and subversive part in the ‘greening’ of Northern Ireland.  He cites Peter Robinson’s latterday objection, to the subsuming of Stranmillis into Queen’s University but I have been working for the past three years – including having had numerous meetings with Costello and folk from Queens.  So it is NOT exclusively about politics – it is about the ethos that I hold precious – as an ex-student, a principal teacher, a parent, a grandparent and Yes, as a Protestant and Unionist.  That is about to be eroded by a systematic connivance, planned through a dominating cabal who are purely politically motivated.  The financial figures given by Costello are exaggerated; the benefits that will actually permeate the classrooms of our Primary Schools are minimal – Queen’s virtually admits that ‘research’ is its guiding principle – that’s not what initially motivates teachers or parents! It is literacy and numeracy as we teach children ‘how to communicate and how to learn’.  So don’t try to make guinea-pigs of my children Mr Costello!  Don’t sacrifice them on some altar of engineered ‘pie in the sky’ grandeur associated with the world of pure academia (if there is such a thing). I am proud of the skills and experience I gained at Stranmillis – in 23 years in the classroom I can’t think of a single child I taught having been to prison – that’s to do with ethical education.  Most people in the profession know I admire the work and commitment of St Mary’s despite difficult years, hopefully behind us, and I’m not prepared to have my tradition offered anything less.  If, after all these years Mr Costello you still value our children as a mere business commodity, then resign and let some of us who are committed to education take over the helm. 
     in the ‘greening’ of Northern Ireland.  He cites Peter Robinson’s latterday objection, to the subsuming of Stranmillis into Queen’s University but I have been working for the past three years – including having had numerous meetings with Costello and folk from Queens.  So it is NOT exclusively about politics – it is about the ethos that I hold precious – as an ex-student, a principal teacher, a parent, a grandparent and Yes, as a Protestant and Unionist.  That is about to be eroded by a systematic connivance, planned through a dominating cabal who are purely politically motivated.  The financial figures given by Costello are exaggerated; the benefits that will actually permeate the classrooms of our Primary Schools are minimal – Queen’s virtually admits that ‘research’ is its guiding principle – that’s not what initially motivates teachers or parents! It is literacy and numeracy as we teach children ‘how to communicate and how to learn’.  So don’t try to make guinea-pigs of my children Mr Costello!  Don’t sacrifice them on some altar of engineered ‘pie in the sky’ grandeur associated with the world of pure academia (if there is such a thing). I am proud of the skills and experience I gained at Stranmillis – in 23 years in the classroom I can’t think of a single child I taught having been to prison – that’s to do with ethical education.  Most people in the profession know I admire the work and commitment of St Mary’s despite difficult years, hopefully behind us, and I’m not prepared to have my tradition offered anything less.  If, after all these years Mr Costello you still value our children as a mere business commodity, then resign and let some of us who are committed to education take over the helm. 
    Ken Maginnis ex-principal; Stranmillis 1955-1958.

  21. Let me not put a tooth in it – the Stephen Costello interview is typical of an Irish citizen and resident of Irish Republic and  who wants to play – and has for a number of years played – an active and subversive part in the ‘greening’ of Northern Ireland.  He cites Peter Robinson’s latterday objection, to the subsuming of Stranmillis into Queen’s University but I have been working for the past three years – including having had numerous meetings with Costello and folk from Queens.  So it is NOT exclusively about politics – it is about the ethos that I hold precious – as an ex-student, a principal teacher, a parent, a grandparent and Yes, as a Protestant and Unionist.  That is about to be eroded by a systematic connivance, planned through a dominating cabal who are purely politically motivated.  The financial figures given by Costello are exaggerated; the benefits that will actually permeate the classrooms of our Primary Schools are minimal – Queen’s virtually admits that ‘research’ is its guiding principle – that’s not what initially motivates teachers or parents! It is literacy and numeracy as we teach children ‘how to communicate and how to learn’.  So don’t try to make guinea-pigs of my children Mr Costello!  Don’t sacrifice them on some altar of engineered ’pie in the sky’ grandeur associated with the world of pure academia (if there is such a thing). I am proud of the skills and experience I gained at Stranmillis – in 23 years in the classroom I can’t think of a single child I taught having been to prison – that’s to do with ethical education.  Most people in the profession know I admire the work and commitment of St Mary’s despite difficult years, hopefully behind us, and I’m not prepared to have my tradition offered anything less.  If, after all these years Mr Costello you still value our children as a mere business commodity, then resign and let some of us who are committed to education take over the helm. Ken Maginnis ex-principal; Stranmillis 1955-1958.

  22. A meeting with Costello was hurriedly held today with the staff of Stranmillis. a proposal for new merger conditions were highlighted. A spoken agreement with no written evidence. The meeting continued until Costello had his way and had a vote for the merger. This was against the request of the principal and many staff who asked could time be given so that all staff could be informed of the new terms and that could it also be put in writing. The meeting involved treats and bullyboy tactics, ‘we sign or we will not have any jobs’. This type of discussion does nothing to encourage staff that are concerned for their futures that this is the answer to their worries and problems.