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Fears grow over future of Maghery Primary School

28 March 2008

Fears grow over future of school

from Portadown Times, 28 March 2008

Parents, teachers and concerned residents have met amid fears that St Mary's Primary School in Maghery could soon be threatened with closure.
A review of rural schools in the Province highlighted that the school is currently five children under the minimum enrolment set out by the Northern Ireland Executive.

The review presented several options for the school’s future including possible mergers with other schools in the parish of Loughgall.

Principal Mr Jim Lee has warned that any change to the primary school would ‘impact on every aspect of the community’.

Development plans for over 40 new houses in the area, which would provide potential for increased enrolment, have been hampered by what has been described as an out-of-date sewage system unable to cater for the needs of an increased population.

Councillor Ignatius Fox, who attended the meeting, said: “The problem with the sewage system is being investigated at present and we hope to have a resolution as soon as possible.”

It is thought that developers and the DOE Water Service will have to work together to overcome the problem while residents are being asked to make their views known in order to mount pressure for improvements to the system.

Mr Lee spoke of the central role the school has played in the community for decades. “The school has served this community for over 150 years and has always enjoyed excellent relationships with local groups. In an era where enrolments are falling it is crucial we can continue to provide for future generations,” he said.

Petitions were handed out at the meeting and letters highlighting the school’s role in the area will be sent to CCMS.

Chair for the evening, Kevin Fox, chairman of the District Hall Committee in Maghery spoke of the need for local action.

He said: “If we show an interest and promote our area we can secure the future of our school.”

He highlighted how the community hall already plays host to a youth club and traditional music group.

Speaking on behalf of TADA, an organisation seeking to promote rural communities, development manager Grainne Close hailed schools as “the heart of any rural community. We are at risk of losing those unless we bring services into the area and local people support those services.”

The Bain Report, carried out in 2006, recommended a minimum of 105 pupils for a primary school to be viable in a rural area. However, the Assembly has stated unofficially that it will have 85 as its minimum requirement.


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