Education news

One of north's last Church of Ireland primary schools earmarked for closure

Desertmartin PS is just one of three schools under Church of Ireland control

ONE of the north's last remaining Church of Ireland schools has been earmarked for closure - spelling doom for plans to create a joint-faith primary.

It had been hoped Desertmartin PS and the Catholic Knocknagin PS in Co Derry would merge to become the north's first jointly-managed Church school.

The two have enjoyed a significant link for several years, which even saw a shared teacher employed.

Low pupil numbers, however, have prompted the Derry Diocesan Board of Education to recommend that Desertmartin shut.

In September 2018, it welcomed just one new P1 pupil and there are no first preferences for September this year.

At one time there was a thriving network of schools under control of Protestant Churches but gradually from the 1920s until the 1960s ownership of almost all were transferred to government.

The Catholic Church kept hold of its schools at the price of less financial support from the state, although equal funding was eventually negotiated decades later.

Just three schools are managed by the Church of Ireland - Drelincourt Infants' in Armagh, Seagoe PS in Portadown and Desertmartin.

Kilcoan PS in Islandmagee, a Presbyterian-maintained school, closed in 2016.

The plan to shut Desertmartin, which has just 13 pupils, will soon be put out to consultation.

A case for change document said a school with such low numbers was "unsustainable both from an educational and financial perspective".

It noted that the governors' and principal's preferred option remained a jointly-managed faith school but said this was not achievable within a timescale that would improve the school's sustainability.

"There is no indication that this pattern of enrolment will change in the near future or that Desertmartin PS can avail of effective jointly managed shared education or partnership working arrangements that will increase sustainability," the case for change said.

"Given the declining enrolment the financial position can only deteriorate further."

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