Northern Ireland news

Small Catholic primary schools facing closure

It has been proposed that two Catholic primary schools, in Derry and Antrim, close in 2020

A SMALL Catholic primary school, where pupil numbers have fallen below 20, is facing closure.

The Education Authority is consulting on the future of Tír na nÓg PS in Ballyclare - which dates back to 1886.

It has been recommended that it close from August 2020.

Inspection reports concluded that pastoral care in the school was very good and the environment was "nurturing and inclusive".

Over the past few years, however, it has experienced a downturn in enrolment numbers.

The enrolment fluctuated over the last decade with no pupils entering P1 for 2018/19. It currently has an enrolment of 16 and operates three composite year groups in a single classroom.

A case for change document prepared by the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) said "there is no indication this number will increase".

It added that there was "no evidence it can reach 105 pupils as required by the Department of Education's sustainable schools policy.

"CCMS recognises the commitment of the governors and staff but current circumstances would not provide for a sustainable school. It is recognised despite the school's best efforts, an increasing financial deficit is projected," teh document reads.

"Tír na nÓg PS anticipates an increasing financial deficit. At the end of the 2020/21 financial year, the deficit is anticipated to be -£105,469."

Elsewhere, CCMS has also recommended the closure of Ballyhackett PS in Castlerock, Co Derry.

Enrolments have decreased from 47 in 2007/08 to 36 in 2018/19. The school's financial plan, CCMS said, indicates a projected deficit of -£55,222 in 2020/21.

It has been proposed the school close in 2020. A consultation on its future will run until the middle of April.

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