Two small rural schools to shut down

It has been proposed that Bellarena PS shut down next year
It has been proposed that Bellarena PS shut down next year It has been proposed that Bellarena PS shut down next year

TWO small, rural primary schools have been earmarked for closure due to falling pupil numbers.

The Education Authority (EA) has published separate `development proposals' concerning two state schools.

It has been suggested that Bellarena PS near Magilligan and Culnady PS near Maghera both shut next year.

Bellarena has an approved enrolment of 74 pupils, however, over the past few years has experienced a downturn in numbers. It now only has 24 pupils although welcomed seven new P1s last September, its largest intake in years.

The school was put into the formal intervention process in October 2016 after inspectors highlighted areas for improvement.

"Governors put forward proposals to promote the school, however, September 2018 intake and current enrolment trends have not provided any upturn in numbers," the EA said.

"The EA recognises the commitment of the governors but the current circumstances would not provide for the curricular provision of pupils currently attending Bellarena PS."

Meanwhile, pupil numbers have also fallen at Culnady PS. Last year it had an enrolment of just 22.

It has good relationships with parents, local businesses and the community and in particular with Culnady Presbyterian Church. The school operates projects with Ulster Scots and is developing links with other neighbouring primary schools.

In its case for change document, supporting the closure, the EA said the removal of state controlled provision from the Culnady area would not have a detrimental impact on the Protestant community, with other suitable schools about two miles away.

"A school with an enrolment of 22 pupils is unsustainable both from an educational and financial perspective," the EA said.

"There is no indication that this pattern of enrolment will change in the near future or that Culnady PS can avail of effective shared education or partnership working arrangements that will increase sustainability. Given the declining enrolment the financial position can only deteriorate further."