Schools face bleak future

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

THE future of a number of primary schools is under threat in the Annual Action Plan published by the Education Authority.

Plans to close St Brigid's Primary School, Augher, at the end of the current school year are reaffirmed, while the EA has stated that "sustainability is an issue" at a number of schools.

This would mean the future of the schools listed in this category is very much up in the air.

Among the schools which are listed as having sustainability issues are Lisfearty PS, Churchtown PS and St Joseph's PS, Caledon and Culnady PS, Maghera.

All three schools have low enrolments of less than half of the recommended number of pupils under the Sustainable Schools Policy, which is currently 105.

In the most recent schools enrolment statistics published by the Department of Education for the 2015/16 academic year, there were just 44 pupils at St Joseph's PS, Caledon, 34 enrolled at Lisfearty PS and only 32 pupils at Churchtown PS.

The Action Plan is considering the possibility of merging Lisfearty PS with Aughnacloy Primary School, listing the two schools together.

Aughnacloy PS had an enrolment in 2015/16 significantly above the Sustainable Schools threshold, with 137 pupils.

In the Action Plan, it is stated that the managing authority (EA) will "consult on options for future provision" of all those schools by March 2018.

With regards St Brigid's PS, Augher, it is reaffirmed that the CCMS (Council for Catholic Maintained Schools) has "submitted a development proposal for closure with effect from September 2017 or as soon as possible thereafter".

Considerable question marks hang over a number of Catholic maintained schools in the Clogher Valley area, with overall "parish provision" having long been exercising minds.

The CCMS had previously proposed the closure of St Mary's PS, Fivemiletown, but that plan was later scrapped. The school had 29 pupils enrolled in 2015/16.

St Macartan's Convent PS, Clogher and St Patrick's PS, Aughadarragh have also previously attracted attention for low enrolments. Those schools had 57 and 69 pupils respectively in the 2015/16 school year.

Plans had also previously been outlined for provision in the Errigal Ciaran parish, involving St Malachy's PS, Glencull (50 pupils in 2015/16), St Mary's PS, Ballygawley (105), St Matthew's PS, Garvaghey (36) and St Brigid's PS, Altamuskin (80), with a merger of the four having been considered.

Meanwhile, a continuing upward trajectory of enrolments at Dungannon's Irish language school, Gaelscoil Aodha Rua, means an increase in admission and enrolment numbers is on the cards.

And an increase in pupils in the Catholic sector means the CCMS is going to work to "develop options" in the areas of Carrickmore, Donaghmore, Dungannon and Eglish.

Meanwhile, Birches PS, which had 167 pupils in the 2015/16 school year, is also mentioned in the plans, with "options for future provision" to be consulted on there by the EA in the next year.


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