Historic primary school faces closure

Tir na Nog PS. Pic by Google.
Tir na Nog PS. Pic by Google.

A primary school that has served the Ballyclare area for over 130 years is facing closure as pupil numbers fall and financial pressures increase.

A proposal has been put forward to close Tír na nÓg Primary School with effect from August 31, 2020.

The present school, which was opened on the town’s Doagh Road in 1973, replacing a school that had been built in 1886, has 16 pupils.

There are two composite classes with a teaching principal, a full-time teacher and a principal’s release teacher for two days a week.

Budget constraints are also an issue, with the financial plan indicating an anticipated increasing financial deficit, with a projected deficit of -£105,469 in 2020/21.

Members of the school’s Board of Governors, staff and parents/guardians were consulted from December 6, 2018 to January 25 about the future of the school.

Commenting on the proposal, a spokesperson for the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools said: “CCMS recognises the commitment of the governors and staff, but current circumstances would not provide for a sustainable school. It is recognised despite the school’s best efforts, an increasing financial deficit is projected.

“As a result of enrolling in a sustainable school, it is likely pupils will be taught in single year group classes. This will ensure pupils are working alongside peers of a similar age and stage.

“In a sustainable school, it is likely pupils will benefit from a wide range of extra-curricular activities. There will also be opportunities to benefit from a wider range of teacher specialisms.

“Having given consideration to all feedback received, CCMS Education Provision Committee approved the proposal to proceed with a development proposal for the closure of Tír na nÓg PS with effect from August 2020, or as soon as possible thereafter.”

A preschool facility adjoins the school, with staff keen to stress it is not earmarked for closure.

A spokesperson said: “There is no proposal regarding the closure of the Preschool Centre, however the future of our playgroup could depend on what happens to the primary school.

“We want to assure parents awaiting their placement letters that there are no plans in place to close the Preschool Centre prior to June 2020.”