Northern Ireland news

Education Authority says it cannot support plan for Fermanagh's St Mary's High School to become integrated

St Mary's High School in Fermanagh

A RURAL Catholic post-primary school is facing a battle to join the integrated sector.

St Mary's High in Brollagh Co Fermanagh wants to `transform' this year, but education officials disagree with the plan.

It has twice been recommended for closure due to issues including low numbers.

There have been previous failed attempts at finding a cross-border solution with schools in Donegal.

It is hoped that switching sectors will boost enrolments.

Expressions of interest were sought from primary schools and 51 responses from parents indicated they would enrol their child if the school became integrated.

No Catholic school has ever 'transformed' but Brollagh faces a struggle if it is to win approval.

The Education Authority (EA) has said it does not support the plan and added that the 51 expressions of interest "would not greatly improve the sustainability".

Officials said the proposal did not demonstrate how the school could achieve the necessary 500 pupils "nor does it demonstrate how the religious balance for an integrated school will be achieved".

The anticipated religious balance upon transformation is likely to be 90 per cent Catholic and 10 per cent Protestant "which represents a significant increase in the minority community", the EA said.

There were 98 pupils enrolled last year.

Governors said that, due to its rural location, it is in the best interests of the young people that post-primary education be available in the area.

"By transforming the school to become controlled integrated this would extend the number of rural young people who would be able to access 11-16 education in their local area, as opposed to travelling a 50 mile round trip each day to the nearest other available schools in Enniskillen, and would provide access to learning in cross community integrated provision in a rural setting," they said.

A consultation will run for two months after which education minister Peter Weir will make a decision.

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