Boards seeks to merge primary schools in Newtownabbey

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THE FUTURE of nine primary schools is being considered under draft plans released by the North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB).

The board has published its draft area plan for the provision of primary school education for the near 7,000 pupils across the Newtownabbey council area for up to 2025.

Of the 27 primary schools in the area, NEELB has identified nine - Abbots Cross, Rathcoole, Doagh, Ballyhenry, Mallusk, Mossgrove, Straid, Tildarg and Tir na nOg - which could be amalgamated with others or an action plan developed in order to provide sustainable education across the borough.

The proposals raise the possibility of amalgamating Rathcoole Primary with Abbots Cross as both schools have 648 unfilled places combined.

Also the plans raise the possibility of combining Mallusk, Mossgrove and Ballyhenry primary schools to address their 388 unfilled places.

With Doagh and Straid schools the proposals recommend exploring local area solutions with the possibility of consolidation with other sites “to be identified”.

While, the draft plan recommends exploring potential solutions for Tildarg and Tir na nOg individually.

The plans are only in the draft proposal stage and any decision will be taken by the Education Minister following extensive consultation with schools, staff, governors, parents and the public.

Meanwhile, St Bernard’s, St MacNissi’s and Gaelscoil Eanna schools have all been approved to increase their capacity in order to address improving enrolment trends.

In a statement the NEELB said: “The board recognises the challenge of configuring school provision to meet the future needs of pupils and has indicated in this draft plan possible reviews of current school provision that will ensure that all children have access to education in viable and sustainable schools.

“It is important that all children have the best opportunity to achieve their potential in the primary stage of their education and it is our intention to work with the schools and the community to act in the best interests of these children.”

The proposals have been developed after Education Minister John O’Dowd requested each board to produce plans for the viability of education in their areas.

He said: “I encourage anyone with an interest in education in their local area to examine the plans and make their views known. A dedicated website, which includes a detailed questionnaire [at www.puttingpupilsfirst.info], has been set up on which people can leave any comment they wish on the plans.

“It is my intention that these plans will inform wide-ranging discussion and dialogue at local level. This is an opportunity for an informed and mature debate that will shape future primary education provision and help identify local solutions that will benefit all children and young people.

“I hope to hear innovative ideas, including the consideration of possible sharing of accommodation and resources.”

Full details of the proposals are available on www.neelb.org.uk and the consultation is open until June 28.