Education chiefs have been urged to reject a proposal which would result in the amalgamation of three rural primary schools.
Ulster Unionist Larne Lough councillor Mark McKinty is lobbying for the joining of Kilcoan and Mullaghdubh schools to “create a dynamic school” for the Islandmagee area, and working in close with collaboration with Ballycarry, the third school included in a current North Eastern Education Board (NEELB) consultation exercise.
Cllr McKinty is preparing a personal response to the consultation, in which he will call for the continuation of Ballycarry Primary School as a single unit.
The deputy mayor said that his case is in line with board policy: “The NEELB Draft Primary Area Plan (2013) states that there may be ‘local circumstances, especially in lightly populated or less accessible rural areas, which require that a school is kept open’.
“I believe the case of Ballycarry and Islandmagee is one of those cases, and distinct schools should be developed on this occasion.”
The past pupil of Ballycarry PS revealed he has consulted with local stakeholders in drafting his response to the consultation, launched by NEELB in the face of enrolments at all three schools which are below the minimum threshold stipulated in the Department of Education’s Sustainable Schools Policy, with a total of 107 unfilled places in the controlled sector in the area.
In January, Education Minister John O’Dowd announced “a new primary school to service Islandmagee and the surrounding area to include Mullaghdubh and Kilcoan Primary Schools” as part of a potential £220 million investment package. Cllr McKinty said: “Upon further consideration and enquiry, it became evident that ‘the surrounding area’ covered Ballycarry, and that the new build for Islandmagee could be linked to the closure of, or amalgamation with Ballycarry Primary.”
Cllr McKinty criticised the board consultation as “too narrow” as it was confined to canvassing the views of pupils, parents, staff and governors at the affected schools.
He added that there were signs that enrolments could increase at Ballycarry in the near future, with the prospect of a dedicated pre-school facility within the next academic year,