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Pupil boost for small school saved from closure

Clintyclay Primary School, near Dungannon. Picture by Cliff Donaldson

A SMALL school spared closure is on course to reach its maximum enrolment number for the first time in years.

At least 40 pupils will attend Clintyclay PS in Co Tyrone this September, with at least five new P1s starting.

The Catholic school had been approved for closure after having a bid to become integrated rejected. This decision was quashed at the High Court in Belfast.

Education minister John O'Dowd still plans to appeal the high court judgment and this is due to be heard in December.

Governors, staff, pupils and parents, meanwhile, are now working to secure the school's long-term future.

The school has also re-run its parental ballot, which again achieved a result in favour of 'transformation' to integrated status.

The Department of Education's sustainable schools policy recommends that at least 105 pupils should be enrolled in a rural primary school.

However, pupil numbers should not be the sole determining factor when considering whether schools are viable long-term

The policy also sets out six criteria to be considered in assessing a school's educational viability including quality educational experience, stable enrolment trends, sound financial position and links with the community.

Supporters of Clintyclay, which opened in 1893, say while pupil numbers are low, and always will be low, the school has a stable enrolment and should not be under threat.

It can only admit seven pupils in P1 and a total of 47 in the entire school.

Overall numbers have been increasing, rising from 29 in 2013 to 31 last year. At least 40 will start this September.

The Education Authority initially said just two new P1s had applied.

Clintyclay was not listed in the 2015 Dungannon and South Tyrone Council primary school guide, because it had been approved for closure. Two parents applied for their children anyway ahead of the January deadline.

A separate guide, detailing the school's admissions criteria, was published online only after the high court quashed the closure decision in May.

Since then a further three P1 children have applied for places. Other pupils are due to join P3 and P6.

Governor Fintan McAliskey said he hoped numbers would grow further.

"There's five in total that will attend P1 at the school and we are hopeful that we will get at least one more," he said.

"The current position is that there is no approved order to close the school on any date."

:: TIMELINE

March 2013: Clintyclay earmarked for closure as part of the area-based planning exercise

May 2013: School says it is baffled at closure plans when it passes all six of government's viability tests

May 2014: Clintyclay becomes first Catholic school to vote to become integrated

May 2014: Closure proposal published

June 2014: School publishes transformation proposal

Oct 2014: John O'Dowd rejects transformation bid and approves closure proposal

May 2015: High court quashes closure decision

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