O’Dowd says no to increased capacity

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Education Minister John O’Dowd has turned down proposals to increase capacity at the popular St Mary’s Primary School in Derrymore.

The school had sought to increase enrolment due to its popularity in the area.

It was proposed to increase the schools enrolment from 145 to 175 pupils from September 2015.

However, Mr O’Dowd turned down the proposals within the past week.

Commenting on his decision, Mr O’Dowd said: “Enrolment trends at the schools in the local area indicate that there are sufficient places to meet the current demand.

“Enrolment levels at St Mary’s Primary School have remained steady in recent years, while other maintained primary schools in the area have high levels of unfilled places.

“While I understand that St Mary’s will be disappointed by my decision an approval to increase their numbers would have had a detrimental impact on their neighbouring 
school.”

The decision by the Upper Bann Sinn Fein MLA has been met with disappointment in some quarters.

However St Patrick’s Primary School in Aghagallon is three miles away and is under-subscribed.

SDLP Councillor Joe Nelson said it was ‘particularly disappointing’

He said because of the demography of the area, there had been an increase in the number of pupils wishing to enrol at St Mary’s in Derrymore and this is why they had requested the increase in intake numbers.

“I can understand the department’s position but it is disappointing for parents who wanted to send their children to St Mary’s Primary School in Derrymore.

The school, which opened in 1969 and sits on the south eastern shore of Lough Neagh, has proved very popular with local residents.

St Mary’s has seen this traditional catchment remain and added to by those who work in a range of jobs and professions.

The school has, as of September 2009, a purpose built pre-school playgroup open on its grounds. This group takes children from 2 years 9 months up to 4 years old. Over the years, it has proved to be an excellent educational asset in preparing children for formal schooling.

Principal of St Mary’s PS in Derrymore, Mrs Caitriona McAtarsney was unavailable for comment.