Enrolment surges at school threatened with closure

A LOCAL school that is being threatened with closure saw its enrolment surge by more than 30 percent last year – higher than any other school of its kind in the North.

Last week local church and political leaders hit out at the Council for the Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) for refusing to withdraw its proposal to close St Mary’s PS in Fivemiletown, despite clear evidence the school was thriving.

These voices of support included Bishop Larry Duffy, who had shifted his position to support the retention of the school, local parish priest Fr Brendan Gallagher, and elected representatives from across the political spectrum, who noted the school was at the heart of positive community relations.


Now campaigners fighting to save the school have been given more hard data showing just how well the school is doing. According to the latest school enrolment report from the Department of Education, released on March 3rd, the number of pupils enrolling in St Mary’s jumped 31 percent in the last year.

That’s more than any other Catholic school in the North, and is in the face of an overall trend which has seen the average number of school enrolments dropping across the board.

Parent and member of the St Mary’s board of governors, Mairaid Kelly, said the figures highlighted “the absurdity of the proposal to close our school.”

“At a time when primary school enrolments across the North have fallen by 1,100 during the past 12 months, we have seen the number of pupils in our school surge,” said Ms Kelly.

“While overall primary school enrolment has fallen for three consecutive years, ours continues to go from strength to strength, reflecting the increasing demand in our local area.”

She continued, “The most telling figure from the enrolment data is that no Catholic primary school in Northern Ireland has seen growth as large as St. Mary’s.

“In light of evidence such as this we cannot understand why CCMS continues to push the myth that our school is unsustainable.


“If CCMS can close down a school which has seen enrolment increase by 31 percent in one year and deem us to be unsustainable then how many other schools are now at the risk of closure? If the largest increase in enrolments is not enough to save our school, what more do CCMS want from us?”

In fact, Ms Kelly noted that “against a backdrop of falling enrolments” the only area where the number of pupils enrolling in schools was rising was in the Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency.

“The facts here are indisputable, there is a growing demand for primary education in the Clogher Valley area, at a time when CCMS is seeking to remove the fastest growing school, in an area with the highest projected population and housing growth,” she said.

“The one thing that is becoming increasingly unsustainable is CCMS’ evidence base for this proposal. CCMS must accept this changing reality and withdraw their proposal now in the interests of all of our children.

“If they fail to do so, it will be incumbent on the Department of Education, in recognition of their own statistics, to prevent our school from closure.”

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