Carnalbanagh school closure ‘not good news for rural communities’

A former Mayor of Larne has voiced his opposition to the decision to close Carnalbanagh Primary School next year.

Tuesday, 29th December 2020, 1:27 pm

Tom Robinson, who is vice-chair of the small rural school’s board of governors, says the closure has come as a body blow to the Glens of Antrim community.

And he claims it has highlighted a crisis in school enrolment numbers in the coastal area.

Mr Robinson said: “I want to see a long-term strategy for this area and a vision for educational provision in Northern Ireland.”

Carnalbanagh Primary School (image by Google).

Mr Robinson, who has served as a governor for four decades, said that falling enrolment numbers had been identified by himself and others almost 15 years ago when efforts were made to establish a controlled integrated primary school in Glenarm in order to safeguard the local primary school.

“Back in 2006 I was involved in efforts to have Glenarm Primary School adopt the status of a controlled integrated primary school because I could see the writing on the wall and an excellent case was made at that time to the Department of Education,

“But sadly it was to no avail and Glenarm Primary was closed. Some of the children were then sent from Glenarm to Carnalbanagh, and history is now repeating itself again,

“Local people will reflect on the closures of Feystown, Aughaboy, Aughagash, and Glenarm primary schools within their memories, and now will be saddened to add Carnalbanagh to this list. It is extremely disappointing and upsetting for the excellent and dedicated staff and parents at Carnalbanagh and I pay tribute to them for all the efforts they have made to save the school,

Tom Robinson.

“Carnalbanagh Primary School, where I have served as vice chairman of the board of governors, was at the heart of that local rural community and this news is devastating to everyone. It was an excellent school, as was evidenced in the fact that the school won a major online maths award earlier this year, beating off competition from private, prep and top boarding schools (read here).”

Mr Robinson said that numbers are what the Department of Education is focused on and this is not good news for rural communities.

“Carnalbanagh won a major competition with a total pupil enrolment probably around the size of one class at some of the bigger schools they triumphed over, so numbers do not mean everything

“The Department of Education needs to look at innovative ways to support local rural schools and in the context of the Antrim Glens coastal area there should be a long-term strategy on how to ensure viability without disruption to pupils, at what is a formative period in their education.”

Carnalbanagh PS, which was established in 1827, was recommended for closure in August 2021 by the Education Authority (EA). The EA’s rationale for the proposed closure stated: “The school has always been a small school with enrolment not exceeding 40 pupils in the last five years, the current enrolment of 26 pupils will place increased pressure on the financial resources of the school and on teaching staff.”

The closure decision came just weeks after Education Minister Peter Weir toured the Glenview Road school in the autumn,

The minister said: “In taking this decision I have noted the managing authority’s assessment of unfilled places at other schools (including places in the controlled sector) and commitment to examine any requirements for provision of additional accommodation at neighbouring schools to facilitate the relocation of pupils.”

Meanwhile, Mr Robinson, a former governor at Glenarm Primary School and Carnlough Integrated Primary School, went on to voice his support for current attempts to secure integrated status for Seaview Primary School in Glenarm.

He said: “Next year the department has to decide on how to respond to an application to accord controlled integrated status to Seaview Primary School in Glenarm, currently a maintained school. Those involved at Seaview have to be congratulated on their initiative to seek integrated status. But I do wonder what view the department is going to take in this matter, given that approval would result in two controlled integrated primary schools – the other being in Carnlough – within five minutes drive of each other?”

Click here to read: Seaview says ‘yes’ to integration in Glenarm

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