Board hints at more school mergers in Larne area

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ANOTHER two primary schools in the Larne borough have been earmarked for potential merger, it has emerged.

The North Eastern Education and Library Board has published its draft Area Plan, which outlines its proposals for the future of primary level education provision.

And the Board has revealed that it intends to explore the possibility of combining Glynn Primary School with another school “on a site to be considered”.

The same proposal was made for Upper Ballyboley Primary School.

Both schools are considered to be below the minimum enrolment threshold detailed in the Sustainable Schools Policy.

The draft plan found that a further five local schools were also below the enrolment threshold (Carnalbanagh, Seaview, St Anthony’s, St MacNissi’s and Carnlough Integrated), and the Board has proposed exploring “a local area solution” in each of these cases.

Meanwhile, eight schools are considered to be sustainable and no change has been proposed. These include Ballynure, Cairncastle, Larne and Inver, Linn, Moyle, Olderfleet, Toreagh and St John’s Primary.

The NEELB had already revealed that it is considering amalgamating Ballycarry PS, Mullaghdubh PS and Kilcoan PS. The Department has also announced plans for a new school building at Corran Integrated PS.

The draft area plan stated that 2,372 pupils attend 19 primary schools in the borough, and there are currently 996 unfilled places in total.

But it is predicted that, taking in cross-boundary flows, there will be an increase of 79 pupils in the borough by the year 2025.

A consultation on the draft plans is now open, with the public invited to submit any comments they might have. The consultation will remain open until the end of June.

A dedicated website, which includes a detailed questionnaire, has been set up to allow people to comment. The plans and consultation response questionnaire are available at http://www.puttingpupilsfirst.info or in hard copy on request from NEELB.

Education Minister John O’Dowd has encouraged anyone with an interest in education in their local area to examine the plans and make their views known.

He added: “It is my intention that these plans will inform wide-ranging discussion and dialogue at local level.

“This is an opportunity for an informed and mature debate that will shape future primary education provision and help identify local solutions that will benefit all children and young people. I hope to hear innovative ideas, including the consideration of possible sharing of accommodation and resources.”

A spokesman for the Board said: “We recognise the challenge of configuring school provision to meet the future needs of pupils and has indicated in this draft plan possible reviews of current school provision that will ensure that all children have access to education in viable and sustainable schools.

“It is important that all children have the best opportunity to achieve their potential in the primary stage of their education and it is our intention to work with the schools and the community to act in the best interests of these children.”