Catholic schools in Tyrone could be closed or merged
MORE than 20 schools have been identified as having sustainability issues and could be considered for closure.
An annual action plan published by the Education Authority (EA) today details areas where schools should be shut, merged or expanded.
The EA aims to create a network of schools "of the right type, of the right size, in the right place".
It has named 22 schools where "sustainability is an issue" but any decision to shut them would have to be subject to consultation.
Eight of the schools listed are Catholic primaries in Co Tyrone.
This is the third such plan published by the EA, in conjunction with the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS).
While it names individual schools, it stops short of making specific recommendations.
In some towns and cities there are too many school places while in others there are not enough.
The document states an intention to promote "shared education solutions which provide sustainable schools", but contains no such proposals.
Instead, the EA and CCMS will consult on future options for schools in their own sectors independently.
For example, four of the 22 are in the Dromore area of Co Tyrone.
EA will look at options for Dromore PS and Queen Elizabeth II, while CCMS will examine Drumlish and Tummery alongside the larger, sustainable St Dympna's.
St Dympna's has more than 200 pupils, but the other two Catholic primaries have just 75 between them. Rural schools are asked to have at least 105 children.
Elsewhere, St Anne's PS in Donaghadee, which once advertised itself as "one of the most integrated schools in Co Down" has been flagged.
The Catholic school has 51 children but can boast a diverse intake - 35 pupils are from a non-Catholic background.
In Armagh, the Church of Ireland managed Drelincourt Infants', which has 28 pupils, will be looked at alongside the controlled Armstrong PS, which has more than 500 children.
Among secondary schools, Blackwater Integrated College in Downpatrick, which has more empty desks than it does pupils, has been listed.
There are also to be consultations on increasing pupil numbers at some schools.
They include Gaelscoil an tSeanchaí in Magherafelt, Gaelscoil Eoghain in Cookstown, Christian Brothers’ PS in Armagh and Scoil an Droichid in Belfast.
EA Interim Director of Education Kim Scott said several schools were too small to adequately provide pupils with access to a broad and balanced curriculum, extensive extracurricular activities, and high-quality pastoral care.
"In many areas of Northern Ireland there are too many school places for the size of the population, while in other areas and sectors, there are not enough places. Area planning seeks solutions to these issues to ensure all pupils have the opportunity to fulfil their potential. Some areas may have relatively simple solutions such as increasing the enrolment number of a school, while other areas may require amalgamations, closures, change of school management type, or sharing of resources," she said.
"The area planning process brings all education bodies in Northern Ireland around the same table to seek solutions to the often complex challenges including changing demographics and multiple school sectors within specific areas. All local solutions will of course be subject to full consultation.
"The purpose of area planning is to ensure that children, no matter where they live or what school sector they choose, have access to high quality education that is delivered in schools that are educationally and financially sustainable."
The 22 schools where "sustainability is an issue" are:
St Anne's Donaghadee
Drelincourt Infants School, Armagh
St Peter's & St Paul's PS, Dungiven
Ballougry PS, Derry
St Brigid's PS, Cranagh
St Peter's PS, Plumbridge
St Eugene’s PS, Victoria Bridge
Queen Elizabeth II PS, Trillick
Drumlish PS, Dromore
Tummery PS, Dromore
Drumduff PS, Sixmilecross
Kilross PS, Tobermore
St Joseph's PS, Caledon
St Malachy's PS, Magherafelt
St Mary's PS, Fivemiletown
St Joseph's PS, Killough
St Joseph's PS, Downpatrick
St Mary's PS, Saintfield
Blackwater Integrated College, Downpatrick
The High School, Ballynahinch