In what is a groundbreaking move for education in Ireland Education Minister John O’Dowd has opted to explore cross-border learning at St Mary’s High School, Brollagh. The decision taken on Thursday of last week removes the threat of closure proposed by CCMS and allows the school to prepare for the new school term in September.
The Minister has indicated he will pursue a cross-border learning community, looking at plans originally proposed by those at the school and within the North West Education Action Group and will work closely with his southern counterpart Ruairi Quinn. The minister said he had taken into account the school’s isolated rural location and wanted further investigation of its plan to link up with schools on the other side of the border.
The North West Education Action Group, which has campaigned against the CCMS decision for two years expressed delight at the Minister’s decision to support rural education in their area.
Speaking just after the decision was announced Frank Maguire from the action group said everyone in the local community was ‘absolutely ecstatic’ with the outcome.
“It is relief within the school and among the staff, we’re absolutely over the moon.
“I must commend Simon Bradley and his staff for their work, they always kept the child number one under great stress. I’m just delighted personally for them to have received this news, at least they now know what’s happening in September.
“Within our community a lot of parents were asking what was happening and there was a lot of anxiety. This decision leaves the future looking a lot brighter for Brollagh.”
Local SDLP councillor Brendan Gallagher, who has been part of the campaign since its inception, welcomed the decision.
“It is a sensible decision given the exceptional circumstances at St Mary’s and now it is a case of putting the model in place securing the long term future. It is also important that the project gets the investment it needs.”
“I’m confident the model can work. There are obviously issues that need to be ironed out, but I’m confident structures can be put in place to secure the long term future.”
Another who has been heavily involved in the campaign is local Independent councillor Bernice Swift. She paid tribute to all those who have worked ‘tirelessly’ to keep rural education alive on site at St Mary’s Brollagh.
“It was the proactive campaigning of the Action Group and overwhelming community support fighting to retain education at St Mary’s Brollagh that sent a clear message to Stormont of which the Minister for education John O’Dowd couldn’t but listen to. This is a clear example of communities uniting together to challenge bad government decisions and it worked.”
The councillor added a note of caution though to the news, stating this was just the beginning of a long process.
“Whilst the decision by John O’Dowd is welcome, it is only the first step in the process. What is imperative now is serious investment for education on site.”
Local Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan added his delight at the announcement and expressed satisfaction the children were at the forefront of the decision.
“The delivery of a first class education system to all of our children is of primary importance to all of us and I am confident that the proposed cross-border model, that is now being fully explored, will allow the excellent teachers and staff that we have at St Mary’s Brollagh, who have faced much uncertainty in recent years, to focus on continuing to deliver this high standard of education for the young people of the area.”
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