Education news

School closure would `erode Catholic primary education' in rural communities

Barnish PS in Ballyvoy, Co Antrim

A plan to shut a small school represents "an erosion of Catholic primary education in small rural communities", it has been claimed.

It has been proposed that Barnish PS in Ballyvoy near Ballycastle will close next summer.

Over the past decade it has experienced a downturn in enrolment - from 91 in 2007/08 to 29 in 2018/19.

The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) said there was no indication numbers would increase, and no evidence it could reach the threshold of 105 required by the Department of Education's sustainable schools policy.

CCMS considered several options before recommending closure.

It said there was insufficient evidence that a cross-sectoral option, such as a joint-faith model or shared campus, could improve its sustainability.

Amalgamation with schools in Ballycastle was explored but ruled out.

"CCMS recognises the commitment of the governors and staff but current circumstances would not provide for a sustainable school," it said.

"It is recognised, despite the school's best efforts, the financial deficit is projected to grow and population data does not indicate growth in the area to support growing enrolment to an extent where the school would be sustainable."

A case for change document prepared by CCMS showed governors and parents objected to the plan.

They said it "represents an erosion of Catholic primary education in small rural communities. This raises serious questions about the vision for Catholic education and how the estate of Catholic maintained schools is being managed".

"The school, in providing many extra-curricular and community activities, is an active social hub for the parish. Closing it will devastate the community," they added.

A decision on whether the school will close will be made in the new year.

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