Ballee student has her say on school’s closure

Ballee Community High School pupil Ellie Bailey who wrote to government minister John O'Dowd about the decision to close her school. INBT 23-821H
Ballee Community High School pupil Ellie Bailey who wrote to government minister John O'Dowd about the decision to close her school. INBT 23-821H

Confirmation that Ballee Community High is to close in August has prompted its Deputy Head Girl to write an open letter to the man who approved its closure, Education Minister John O’Dowd.

Ellie Bailey points out that she penned the correspondence “on a free willed, independent basis” and told this newspaper she did so “to spread the word about how I, as a young girl and a pupil, feel about this preposterous decision”.

She wrote: “My name is Ellie Bailey, presently and proudly known as the Deputy Head Girl of Ballee Community High School. On the 22nd of May 2014, myself and fellow pupils were submitted to the excruciating and hard bearing news that our school, will be shut down. The news held teachers and pupils alike not only shocked; but traumatised with heavy hearts and broken spirits. My faith in politicians and a ‘Brighter Future’, has been torn and bruised.

I am writing this letter on a free willed, independent basis. Not only that: as a working class young girl with hope and passion in her heart. With this in mind, Now is the time for me to speak up for my school; and community.

Many years ago, I was written off as a failure when I obtained a Grade ‘D’ in my eleven plus examinations. Made to feel stupid; and second class! ..but what now? I will tell you what! I am a straight ‘A’ grade pupil having attained my full academic potential.. but how? How have I reached this level? How have I transformed from underachieving to the solid position in which I stand firm today?

It is largely thanks to Ballee Communty High School!

The teachers, the pupils, even the janitors to the dinner hall staff have taught me something! I am more determined, hard working and motivated than I have ever been in my entire life - My school is revolutionary!

Did you know we sponsored Swaziland - a country to the South of Africa - in the London 2012 Olympics? Did you know we were their Guard of Honour? And guess what? I was there, improving my schools interracial tolerance, not only locally and nationally; but internationally!! What other school can say that in the borough?

As a school, as friends, as family, we strive towards cross community equality. Whether it be Protestants or Catholics; or all of the other races that exist in our society. Yet all of this good work is disregarded in order to meet the government’s targets for cuts in the education sector.

What kind of government puts money before the well being of its young people? Not a government that I will grow up to support.

I have no vested interest in my school as I approach my final month of High School before college - but that doesn’t mean I will not fight for the rights of my teachers and fellow pupils’ future!.