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Primary school closures in NI revealed

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Primary schools across Northern Ireland are facing closure, while many more are being considered for amalgamation under news plans unveiled on Tuesday.

Area plans released by each of the Education Boards have recommended the closure of some schools which are no longer sustainable due in large part to inadequate numbers of pupils.

In the Belfast Education and Library Board (BELB) area, Ballysillan PS and Ballygolan PS are both earmarked for closure.

The BELB has also proposed many more amalgamations.

In the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) area; St James’ PS, Drumatee, St John’s PS, Eglish and St Michael’s PS, Clady are to close.

Three more SELB schools: Crievagh PS, Clintyclay PS and Clontifleece PS, have been earmarked for potential closure.

In the Western Education and Library Board (WELB) area, four schools have been earmarked for closure: St Eugene’s PS Lisnaskea, Bridgehill PS, Envagh PS and St Francis of Assisi PS.

Three schools are recommended for closure in the North eastern area (NEELB), Cullycapple PS in Coleraine, Drumard PS outside Magherafelt and Dalriada Prep in Ballymoney.

In the South Eastern Education and Library Board area, the CCMS is to consult on the potential closure of St Patrick’s PS in Burrenreagh and there is a proposal to amalgamate St Luke’s and St Mark’s primaries in the Lisburn area.

The SEELB primary schools plan also outlines a proposal to “decrease admission and an enrolment figures” at two other schools in Lisburn. The Good Shepard PS and St Keiran’s PS currently have 511 and 290 unfilled pupil places respectively.

The proposals outlined by the five education boards will be put to public consultation, before final plans are put before the Education Minister.

In a statement, the minister said: “I note that the Boards have published their plans today and I encourage anyone with an interest in education in their local area to examine the plans and make their views known. A dedicated website, which includes a detailed questionnaire, has been set up on which people can leave any comment they wish on the plans.”

The plans and consultation response questionnaire are available on the website http://www.puttingpupilsfirst.info or in hard copy on request from individual Education and Library Boards.

The minister added: “It is my intention that these plans will inform wide-ranging discussion and dialogue at local level. This is an opportunity for an informed and mature debate that will shape future primary education provision and help identify local solutions that will benefit all children and young people.

“I hope to hear innovative ideas, including the consideration of possible sharing of accommodation and resources.”

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in Northern Ireland, said the proposals would cause uncertainty and concern for both teachers and parents.

“Today’s announcement is the first phase of the process,” said Mr Keates.

“Handled correctly these proposals present a real opportunity to enhance educational provision. Handled badly, they will generate a chaotic free for all and the workforce and children and young people will be the casualties.

“There is scope to avoid closure, minimise disruption to pupils and maximise job retention by exploring the options for schools to work together and share resources in clusters or federations

“Employers and the Assembly must take note that the NASUWT will not accept the proposals being used as a crude cost-cutting exercise and will expect them to address seriously the concerns about job loss and excessive workload, which are being generated by the reorganisation plans,” he added.

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