Schools unhappy with plan for new Irish language primary
PLANS to open the first stand-alone Irish language primary school in Armagh are facing strong opposition.
It has been proposed that Gaelscoil Ard Mhacha welcome its first intake of 12 P1s next year, which would grow in time to 105.
Consultations with nursery staff, parents and public were "very positive and unanimous" in their support, those behind the project said.
Other schools, including an alternative Irish-medium provider, however, do not support it.
There has been Irish language education in Armagh city for more than 30 years, the first school - Naíscoil Ard Mhacha - opened in 1987.
Bunscoil na mBráithre Críostaí followed in 1995 as a unit in the Christian Brothers' PS.
Further nursery units set up in Armagh and Keady while the area is served at post-primary by a stream at St Catherine's College.
A steering group of activists and parents of children in Naíscoil na Caille came together with support from Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta in 2015 to develop a new free standing pre and primary school.
It said there was "substantial level of demand" and it hoped to have a permanent purpose-built school within 10 years. Armagh Harps GFC said it would be willing to permit use of one of its rooms to house children on a temporary basis.
The Education Authority (EA) said it supported the bid but noted "strong opposition from schools in the area".
Christian Brothers' PS, St Patrick's PS, Mount Saint Catherine's PS and St Catherine's College all said they were "fully supportive of developing the Irish language and culture with Armagh city".
They asked the EA to note that the Irish stream at Christian Brothers' was undersubscribed this year "and in fact has always been able to accommodate any child who applied for enrolment".
"Current provision for IM at primary level in Bunscoil na mBráithre Críostaí has been evaluated as outstanding," a case for change document said.
"In Armagh City alone, there are seven primary schools. Many of these schools are below enrolment capacity and suffering from a lack of inward investment.
"If another school was to be established, this would cause a further downturn in the other schools and may significantly detrimentally impact heavier on one particular school with serious negative consequences for the jobs of staff."
The schools suggested that if there was significant demand in one particular area outside the city, such as Keady, "surely it would be better to establish a stream within a primary school there".
A decision is expected early next year.