Northern Ireland news

Merged Mournes school St Columban's PS to move into temporary new site

The merged primary school will move into St Columban's College in Kilkeel, which will shut this year

A NEWLY merged school without its own home will move onto a temporary site - less than two miles from an under-subscribed primary.

Three Catholic schools that serve the parish of Lower Mourne in Co Down are to amalgamate later this year.

St Joseph's in Ballymartin, St Mary's in Glasdrumman and Moneydarragh PS were to come together in a new building to accommodate up to 205 pupils.

It will be named St Columban's PS. However, four years after the merger was first approved, no site has been found.

In the short-term, it will move into the building occupied by St Columban's College in Kilkeel, which will close later this year.

While the site falls within the Lower Mourne parish, it is just a mile and a half from another primary school with empty desks.

Previous proposals to expand or move schools have been rejected on the grounds that they may impact on enrolments of other schools within a nearby radius.

When the amalgamation was approved four years ago, this was not an issue - although government officials noted that "account should be taken of the high level of unfilled places at St Colman's PS, its close proximity, particularly to the Ballymartin area and the fact that several pupils by pass St Colman's PS to attend the other schools".

St Colman's serves the neighbouring Upper Mourne parish and has about 230 pupils, which is more than double the number needed to be considered sustainable for a rural primary. It has a total enrolment number of 454.

When the merger was approved in 2014 it was said the Education Authority would determine the location of the new school. It said it "should fall within the traditional catchment area of the three schools involved and also take account of the catchment area of the adjacent St Colman's PS, Kilkeel".

The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) confirmed the amalgamated school would be located at the St Columban's College site in Kilkeel following its closure.

It said it had received no objections about the temporary site. It is not known how long it will remain in Kilkeel.

"We are delighted with this solution as it will bring pupils and staff together on one site within the parish, in improved facilities, until the new school build is in place," a CCMS spokesman said.

"The new school build project is also progressing well with a number of sites currently under consideration and McAdam Design appointed as project managers.

"Works to refurbish the building, funded by the Department of Education, will take place over the coming months and we look forward to welcoming pupils to St Columban's Primary School in September."

The siting of the amalgamated primary school in Kilkeel was "an interim measure until the proposed new build is in place", he added.

"Both primary schools have established the entrance criteria for their intended catchment areas. St Colman's and St Columban's Primary Schools will continue to provide a high quality and sustainable provision for these areas."

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