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Anger at handling of plans to close a second rural primary school

A south Armagh primary school which was saved from the threat of closure five years ago is once again facing the axe.

And the way in which the bombshell was dropped has been criticised and met with “deep disappointment”.

Earlier this month Armagh I reported that St James’ Primary School at Mullaghbrack had been recommended for the axe as part of the Area-Based Planning for the Primary School Sector in Northern Ireland.

A formal development proposal was published which would see the school – which falls within the Parish of Tandragee – close by the end of August next year or “as soon as possible thereafter”.

Now the CCMS has issued a letter to parents of children attending Anamar Primary School in Crossmaglen regarding plans to close the rural primary school.

Local Sinn Fein Councillor Terry Hearty has expressed his “deep disappointment” at the “lack of consultation with the Board of Governors” in relation to the move.

Mr Hearty said: “I have been at the forefront of the fight to save Anamar for 10 years now and I’m deeply disappointed by the way the CCMS has handled this,” he said.

“They carried out a consultation over a year ago and since then have made no contact with the Board of Governors until sending out this letter.

“At the very least they should have presented their findings to the Board and began discussions to find the best way forward from there.

“Schools in this area are bursting at the seams. There are students being taught one-to-one lessons in cupboards because there is nowhere else to hold them. We have had accidents at schools because of lack of parking and proper collection facilities. This is the environment the CCMS is attempting to put 30 more pupils in to.

“I am telling them today the same thing I told them 10 years ago – that if they are going to close this school then they need to ensure that the proper staff, helpers, space and facilities are available to absorb them in other schools so that no child’s education suffers.

“And I would stress that these need to be proper, quality facilities.

“A wooden hut stuck in the middle of a playground is not the answer to this problem.”

Meanwhile Sinn Féin MLA Megan Fearon has secured a meeting with the CCMS to raise these concerns.

“I will be meeting with the CCMS on Tuesday to discuss this issue and I’ll be making clear that this is not the way to handle this,” she said.

“There needs to be far more consultation with the Board of Governors and if this is the move they are intent on making then they need to ensure that other schools get the funding increases and expansions they need to accommodate more children.

“At the end of the day it’s the pupils at the heart of this who are our primary concern so we will work with any statutory body or group out there to ensure that we find the best possible outcome for their education and future.”

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