School supporters query amalgamation plan
SUPPORTERS of a rural school due to merge with a smaller neighbour have criticised inconsistencies in education chiefs' approach to area planning.
It has been proposed that a new 650-pupil school opens in Lisnaskea with the closure of St Comhghall's in the town and St Eugene's in nearby Roslea.
In a published proposal, which could see the school open by next September, the plan is described as "in effect an amalgamation".
Parents and staff at St Comhghall's however are angry that an option of closure and expansion was ignored in favour of a merger.
Such a reorganisation is to be used in Enniskillen where two non-selective schools - St Fanchea's for girls and St Joseph's for boys - will be "discontinued". Two grammar schools - St Michael's for boys and Mount Lourdes for girls - will then increase in size.
New guidance published by the Department of Education states that an amalgamation is the forming of a new school to replace "two or more schools of a similar size coming together".
Because the two grammar schools in Enniskillen are significantly larger than the non-grammars, amalgamation was ruled out.
Those supporters of St Comhghall's have now argued that their school should have been treated in the same way, rather than simply merged with the much smaller St Eugene's.
Pupil numbers in Lisnaskea have been increasing every year while numbers in Roslea have been in decline. Last year, St Comhghall's had 470 pupils compared to just 78 at St Eugene's.
The amalgamation proposal was published for public consultation in September.
One caller to the Irish News said the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) appeared to have "applied one rule for non-selective schools and another for grammar schools in Fermanagh".
"CCMS representatives stood at public meetings in front of four schools in Enniskillen and recited the positive points of expansion and closure - an option that the staff at St Comhghall's favour, and explained why amalgamation was a totally unsuitable option," they said.
"If it's unsuitable in Enniskillen why is it fit for purpose in Lisnaskea?"
The pre-consultation exercise by CCMS, on the specific question of amalgamation in rural Fermanagh, took place prior to the department issuing its fresh guidance, however.
It is understood that if CCMS was looking at reorganising the schools again from scratch, then a closure and expansion would be the preferred option for Lisnaskea and Roslea.