Education news

Rural Fermanagh school allowed to explore a cross-border model is to shut next year

St Mary's High School in Brollagh, Co Fermanagh has been proposed for closure on August 31 2018

A RURAL school saved from closure to allow it to explore a cross-border model is to shut next year.

A proposal has been published which, if approved, will see St Mary's High School in Brollagh, Co Fermanagh close in August 2018.

It had originally been proposed that it shut in 2015, but then education minister John O'Dowd went against his advisers by deciding it should remain open.

At that time it had 121 pupils, considerably fewer than the 500 required to be "viable". Last year that had dropped to just 89.

Accessibility is a major issue for children. If St Mary's closes, pupils have to travel into Enniskillen even though the school is closer to Donegal.

Mr O'Dowd asked that cross-border collaboration be further explored.

The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools had already rejected a partnership model because each component school would have to be sustainable in its own right.

A business case said St Mary's was not viable. It had a deficit of about £437,000 in 2013, which was expected to rise to £791,000 by 2016.

In October last year, education minister Peter Weir said his officials agreed with the CCMS analysis "that a cross-border approach would not meet required quality thresholds, nor would such an approach be cost effective".

CCMS said it had again explored the cross-border options before deciding to consult on the proposal to close the school.

In undertaking the exercise, CCMS said it endeavoured to ensure that "the best educational interests of the children remain the focus of our attention".

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