Loss of school will strike blow to Protestant community of Castlewellan
THE planned closure of a school in Co Down is a "major blow to the minority Protestant community", it has been claimed.
It has been proposed that Castlewellan PS, which includes a moderate learning difficulties class, will "discontinue" by summer 2020.
It is the last remaining controlled school in the predominantly nationalist town.
Castlewellan High School shut down in 1991.
The Education Authority (EA) originally wanted to replace Castlewellan PS and Annsborough Integrated PS with a new integrated primary.
Governors were in favour, but prior to moving to the next stage several parents relocated their children.
The result was a decline in the enrolment, the EA said, "to a point where the potential establishment of a new controlled integrated primary school was no longer viable".
With just 18 pupils left, it has now been proposed it shuts its doors.
Ulster Unionist councillor Alan Lewis said the school's loss would strike a blow to the Protestant community.
While it is a state school, last year more than half its pupils identified as either Catholic or `other' faiths.
"By questioning the sustainability of the school, it persuaded some parents to think closure was imminent. In turn they acted by pre-emptively moving their children to a different school. This then further weakened the position Castlewellan PS found itself in," Mr Lewis said.
The EA was asked if parents supported the original integrated school proposal.
In response, it said only: "Although there was governor support for this new school proposal, after EA carried out pre-publication consultation, a number of parents of pupils attending Castlewellan Primary School decided to relocate their children to alternative primary providers in the area."