Campaign launched to save Straid village school

Straid residents have vowed to save the Co Antrim village’s primary school after plans to shut it were revealed by the Education Authority (EA).

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 11:04 am

They have commenced a campaign to oppose the EA’s proposal and are to hold a public meeting next week to highlight community concerns.

The education body has launched a consultation process with governors, teaching staff and parents about the possible closure of Straid Primary School, near Ballyclare.

An EA spokesperson said: “The Education Authority (EA) is taking forward a proposal for the discontinuance of Straid Primary with effect from September 1 2023. The EA is undertaking pre-publication consultation with governors, staff, parents/guardians and affected schools on the proposal running from May 6 to July 1.

Straid Primary School.

“Following the conclusion of the pre-publication consultation period, the EA will consider the responses and bring a Case for Change to the Strategic Planning and Policy Committee in September 2021. It is at this meeting which will make a recommendation on whether to publish the proposal.”

The spokesperson added: “Should the committee agree to publish the proposal, this will commence a two-month public objection period during which comments should be made directly to the Department of Education. After this two-month period, the Minister of Education will make a decision on the proposal.

“It should be noted that the Education Authority is the proposer with the final decision on the proposal being that of the Minister of Education.”

The Irish Hill Road school’s board of governors has urged the community to “join with the school to help them meet this challenge”.

In a statement, principal Dawn Boyd said: “The board of governors of Straid Primary School is currently working to formulate our response to the Education Authority proposal in which it should be noted that no decision has been reached. 

“The school continues to work with confidence to serve our pupils, parents, and community by providing the highest level of education and care for every child as confirmed by the Education and Training Inspectorate in our last inspection report.

“We are also resolved to continue to build the future of the school to serve the pupils and the community as we have done for nearly two centuries.

“As a board of governors, we will continue to question Education Authority policy and decision-making around schools in village communities and urge everyone to take the opportunity to respond to the proposal, joining with us to meet this challenge.”

Members of the community, including elected representatives, have been invited to the public meeting on May 25.

Speaking to this newspaper, Michael Whittley, secretary of Straid Village and District Community Group, said: “It is clear from the statement from the Education Authority that they’ve already made their decision to close the school. This is evident from the wording of the proposal presented to Straid PS and other schools likely to be affected by this proposal.

“This has caused alarm and fear among several parents of children currently attending the school and indeed those who had the intention of enrolling their children into the school.”

He added: “The current number of children attending the school has risen since the new principal Mrs Boyd has taken over and it is due to her hard work and that of the staff and current board of governors that this has happened.

“We fully support and endorse the actions of the principal and board as they argue the case for reversing this decision and it is for this reason that we have called a public meeting on Tuesday, May 25 to voice our objections and to offer whatever support we can to prevent the closure of our school.”

The future of the rural school, located approximately three miles from Ballyclare, was challenged three years ago after the Education Authority published its 2018-19 action plan. It sets out proposed changes, some of which included increases or decreases in enrolment and the opening of new nursery units, for the period up to 2020.

The report listed around two dozen schools facing what it called “sustainability issues”, meaning they faced the prospect of closing or merging with other schools in the future.

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Click here to read: Carnalbanagh Primary School closure ‘will have far reaching impact on community’

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