More than 35,000 people have supported a campaign to prevent the closure of residential and outdoor education centres in the province.
The Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) lodged with the Education Authority a package of petitions.
The campaign was initiated in response to the authority’s proposal to close statutory centres at Ardnabannon, Bushmills, Delamont and Killowen with a threat hanging over the future of the Killyleagh facility.
A public consultation on the proposals closed on February 6.
Kieran Bannon, NIPSA Deputy General Secretary, said: “These centres are important and invaluable to the education and development of children and young people, providing a unique learning experience in a friendly and save environment. The centres also provide the opportunity for shared learning under which young people can develop a greater understanding of self and others.”
“There has been a massive public outcry about the proposed closures and a measure of that was our delivery of 25,230 hard copy signatures and a further 10,000 on-line signatures to a petition NIPSA ran during the short public consultation period.
“This is a very significant voice of people saying no to the proposals along with the hundreds of formal written responses submitted to the Education Authority opposing their plans.”
“The Education Authority must now carefully consider the scale of opposition to their proposals. In submitting formal responses to the public consultation NIPSA, along with a broad representative grouping of respondents form other trade unions, schools, teachers, educationalists, young people, students, parents and youth workers, have provided sound reasons for keep these highly successful centres open.”
The union says it has also put forward alternatives to the proposals including a revised charging regime to include a modest increase at still affordable rates.