Plans for a switch to controlled integrated status could save Mallusk Primary School from possible closure, it is hoped.
With enrolment levels having decreased significantly in recent years, and fewer than a dozen pupils remaining at the village school, the move towards integrated education is a last-ditch bid to secure its future.
School governors put forward the transformation proposal earlier this year. And after they voted for a move to controlled integrated status in June, the North Eastern Education and Library Board was duty-bound to publish a development proposal for the school and initiate a public consultation process.
This week the Board published its plan, which proposes “controlled integrated status for Mallusk Primary School with effect from 1 September 2015 or as soon as possible thereafter.”
Interested parties such as parents and other stakeholders now have two months during which to register comments or objections with the Area Planning Team at the Department of Education.
A spokesman for the NEELB confirmed that the status transformation request takes precedence over the previous Area Planning proposal for a possible merger with Ballyhenry Primary School, meaning any potential amalgamation has been put on hold until a decision is taken by the Education Minister on the proposed move to integrated status.
There has been widespread support in the local community for the move towards integrated education, including from the Friends of Mallusk Primary School, Mallusk Community Action Group and local politicians.
South Antrim MLA Danny Kinahan, the UUP’s education spokesman, welcomed the Board’s proposal, saying: “I am very much a supporter of the push towards integrated education. The school was probably going to close, so the move to integrated status is a way of keeping it open.
“I think an integrated school will work really well as it’s the right place for it, in a mixed community.
“There is a very healthy nursery in the village and a very strong community group, so hopefully the school will stay open and grow and the village will thrive.”
Meanwhile, Mallusk Primary School’s acting principal, Suzanne Kinsella says staff and parents at the school are “delighted” with the move towards integrated status.
• See more in next week’s Times.