Every pupil leaves Co Tyrone school, speeding up its closure

St Matthew's PS in Co Tyrone

A RURAL Catholic school is to shut down in the middle of the year - because every child has left.

St Matthew's PS, Garvaghey in Co Tyrone was struggling with low pupil numbers and finances.

It was among the schools red-flagged as having sustainability issues in the Education Authority's strategic area plan.

The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) was due to consult on options for its future.

Just two new P1 pupils started in September and one in 2016.

There are four Catholic primary schools in the Ballygawley area. About 10 years ago consideration was given to reducing the number of schools from four to one.

This would have been achieved through the closure of all four schools and re-location of pupils to a purpose-built school on a new site. At the time the plan received support from almost all parents.

It was not advanced, however, a key factor was the lack of money for building projects.

Within the current area planning programme, there are no plans to re-examine the four school amalgamation.

A case for change document from CCMS said there was a significant number of surplus places in schools in the area and proposal to shut St Matthew's "best addresses this issue".

CCMS noted that the strengths of the school included the outstanding quality of the pastoral care, the excellent leadership of the principal and "the purposeful engagement of the staff with the parents and the local community".

"While St Matthew's Primary School could be regarded as meeting the sustainability criteria and indicators relating to quality educational experience, strong leadership and

management, accessibility and strong links with the community, its enrolment is low and it is not in a sound financial position," CCMS said.

The preferred option, CCMS said, was that St Matthew's should close on August 31 2018 and the children transfer to a school of their parents' choice.

This, however, has been brought forward after every child transferred by November.

"In consideration of this development, the revised date to discontinue St Matthew’s PS, Garvaghey is 31 January 2018," CCMS said.

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