Donacloney school given capacity boost

Cllrs Mark Baxter and Carla Lockhart with parents at Donacloney Primary School.
Cllrs Mark Baxter and Carla Lockhart with parents at Donacloney Primary School.
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A development proposal to increase enrolment at Donacloney Primary School has been approved by Education Minister John O’Dowd.

The school’s capacity will increase from 232 to 260 pupils from September 1, 2014 or as soon as possible after that date.

Mr O’Dowd said: “The evidence shows that there is a consistent and increasing demand for primary school places in the area. An increase in the approved enrolment at Donacloney PS will help cater for this demand.

“The proposal is also consistent with the area planning proposals contained in the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) Primary Area Plan. Taking all of the relevant information into account, I am content to approve this development proposal.

“The SELB will be responsible for ensuring that any expansion at Donacloney Primary School will not have a detrimental impact on admissions to existing controlled primary schools in the wider area.”

Councillor Mark Baxter welcomed the news: “We are absolutely delighted. Living in the village I witnessed the heartache felt by disappointed parents whose children missed out on a primary one place last year, this victory for the school will be a cold comfort to those parents but will be very welcome to local parents and children alike whose future would have been uncertain. “

MLA Stephen Moutray led a delegation to Stormont, which included Cllr Carla Lockhart members of the board of governors and the principal with Cllr Baxter. Upper Bann MP David Simpson was involved throughout.

Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson said: “I warmly welcome this decision, but sadly for some children it has come a year too late. It is a sad reflection on John O’Dowd that he can reject a sensible proposal and then when he comes under concerted pressure from myself and others approves it one year on. After all this is the Minister who consistently refuses to support rural schools which are the lifeblood of our communities, not least in Donaghcloney and Waringstown.

“Why could he simply not have done the right thing a year ago? Many parents in Donaghcloney will be rightly asking this question of him.

“Following considerable contact by local parents, who were angered by the original decision, I wrote to the Minister, raised the issue at Stormont and with the Board who were supporting the application to increase the enrolment numbers. I also raised the issue as a member of the Education Committee at Stormont.”