Closure-threatened school pupils face place scramble
A RURAL primary school with a small number of pupils is facing closure - with the nearest alternatives heavily oversubscribed.
It has been proposed that Evish PS near Strabane, Co Tyrone, should shut down at the end of the current school year.
If the plan is approved by the education minister, it is expected that children will transfer to schools in Strabane, where there is already fierce competition for places.
The prospect of closure first surfaced three years ago after the publication of `viability audits' which were followed by the area-based planning exercise.
The only issue highlighted by the viability audit was Evish's low enrolment number, which was significantly smaller than the recommended threshold of 105 for a rural school.
It had healthy finances. The subsequent area plan earmarked the school for closure, however.
The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools identified issues that included it having more than two composite classes in a single classroom and an enrolment that was below the minimum threshold detailed in the Department of Education's sustainable schools policy.
Pupil numbers dropped to 43 last year.
Primary education in the wider area has undergone significant recent change.
St Mary's Melmount opened in 2012 following the amalgamation of St Mary's Boys' and St Mary's Girls' schools.
The merged school has an approved enrolment number of 600, but had 702 pupils last year.
Last September it received 103 applications for 90 places.
In 2014, Barrack Street Boys' and St Anne's PS for girls merged to become St Catherine's PS. It is also oversubscribed.
While it has an enrolment number of 406, it had 475 pupils last year.