Brollagh parents ‘incensed’ at plans to close school

ST MARY’S High School, Brollagh is facing fresh closure fears, with a proposal now brought forward to close the school’s doors as early as August 2020. 
This is the third time that the school has faced up to closure threats. The future of the school was first clouded with uncertainty in 2014, but the closure attempt was quashed by former Minister for Education John O’Dowd. This was on the basis that further exploration of a cross-border solution was required.
 In 2017 another closure attempt was made, but later withdrawn. In recent days the Education Authority published the latest proposal brought forward by the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS). 
The document sets out a proposal to discontinue the school, “with effect from 31 August 2020, or as soon as possible thereafter.” 
Gerry Campbell, CCMS chief executive said, “CCMS is of the view that this period of uncertainty needs to come to an end for all involved. CCMS is committed to ensuring pupils have access to a broad and balanced curriculum and it is challenging for St Mary’s HS to deliver this, given its low enrolment and growing financial deficit.”
Enrolment numbers at the school have noticed a sharp downturn, dropping from 136 in 2013/14 to 90 at present. This falls well below the 500 pupils recommended by the Department of Education’s sustainable schools policy. The document also outlines the school’s growing financial deficit which now sits at £1.6million. 
Mr Campbell added that he was aware the community is investigating potential for transformation of the school to integrated status. “The proposal to close the school does not interfere with the rights of the stakeholders to investigate the potential for integrated education on the site. 
“As this option is progressed, CCMS will assist where appropriate, to ensure they have all necessary information to develop the proposal,” he said.
A spokesman for the St Mary’s High School Brollagh Parents Action Group said the group ‘totally rejects the CCMS proposal and are incensed at the way parents and children have been treated yet again.’
“The action group members have been contacted by many current parents and in-coming parents of children voicing their outrage of learning this news through media sources. 
This is the fourth occasion since 2008 the CCMS have attempted to close St Marys. During the last 11 years, the CCMS have offered no positive alternative to finding a solution for retaining post-primary education in one of the most socially deprived areas in NI.”
The CCMS said a series of consultation events have taken place with the governors, staff, parents and pupils of the school. A public consultation will now take place before a decision on the school’s future is reached by the Department of Education.  

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