Northern Ireland news

Closure of Co Armagh school would 'remove a critical resource at the heart of the minority Protestant community'

Gemma Harrison, principal of Kingsmills Primary school in Co Armagh. Picture by Hugh Russell
Suzanne McGonagle

THE closure of a rural primary school in Co Armagh would "remove a critical resource at the heart of the minority Protestant community", it has been claimed.

A two-month consultation period on the future of Kingsmills PS ended last night.

Plans were announced by the Education Authority (EA) to close the school in August due to falling pupil numbers and a rising financial deficit.

In 2021/22, there were just 32 pupils, with its deficit at around £50,000.

However, it is understood just three out of more than 120 responses to an initial consultation favoured closure.

UUP councillor David Taylor, who sits on the board of governors, last night said shutting the school would "seriously impact" the "minority Protestant community" in the area.

"Kingsmills Primary School has been in the local community for over 150 years," he said.

"And it's not just the fact that it's a school, it plays such an important role in other provisions for the community. It hosts local functions and local community groups would use it as well for different activities. Obviously it has a close relationship with the local Presbyterian church as well.

"So it is not just the fact that children are educated there, which is the most important part, but it also plays a very important role as a community hub."

An EA spokeswoman said it "undertook pre-publication consultation" last year on a proposal to discontinue the school.

The EA's strategic planning committee approved the publication of the proposal last September.

The second phase of the proposal commenced a two-month statutory objection period with the Department of Education, which closed yesterday.

"After this a submission will be made to the minister of education or permanent secretary for a decision," she added.

Northern Ireland news