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Once-vibrant rural Ballymena school faces uncertain future

Kirkinriola Primary School

Kirkinriola Primary School

 

There are fears for the future of a primary school whose pupil numbers have plunged.

Kirkinriola Primary School on the outskirts of Ballymena has been open since 1929 but was placed in intervention in 2011 after an inspection found it “inadequate”.

The most up-to-date Department of Education figures show enrolment is now at 53, as opposed to around 100 prior to intervention, although a recently established group called Friends of Kirkinriola Primary School said numbers are now lower.

TUV MLA Jim Allister, who has attended a number of the group’s meetings, said: “I think it’s an absolute tragedy that what had been a vibrant, growing rural school producing out-turns for children which were very, very good sadly finds its entire future in jeopardy.”

He said problems at the school had led parents to “vote with their feet” and go elsewhere.

The North East Education and Library Board (NEELB), said: “The NEELB, following meetings with the board of governors and the parents of pupils attending the school, instigated a programme of extensive support to the school which continues to be maintained. The board was pleased to note that a report on a follow-up inspection in November 2012 highlighted improvements...”

This response was branded “absolute rubbish” by Trevor Beatty, a 59-year-old former chair of the board of governors, from Randalstown. He said it was “a standard response, not getting to the kernel of the problem”.

Mr Allister said he was meeting with the chief executive of NEELB in the new year.

The TUV leader said: “I don’t know what the straight-talking at that meeting will produce.

“But certainly we need to see some action to take these things by the scruff of the neck.”

The News Letter tried to get in touch with the school but messages were not returned, and no answers to any questions were forthcoming despite numerous attempts to get a comment.

 

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