A DUP MLA has rubbished claims that a Co Armagh playgroup has closed due to a decline in the numbers of immigrant children.
Jonathan Buckley said he was sad that Richmount Playgroup near Portadown had to close but said it was ‘unfair to associate Brexit with this decision’.
The playgroup secretary Joe Garvey had said that they had been unable to fill all the 13 funded places at the school and it was now financially unviable to keep it open.
Mr Garvey said that despite being very successful since it opened in 2012, it has been unable to attract sufficient numbers this year.
Mr Garvey added: “There is a combination of factors and we may not know them all but: we have a falling birth rate combined with a major decline in immigrants to the area with children. Also, many of the immigrant families are moving elsewhere due the uncertainty of their status on the outcome of Brexit.”
However Mr Buckley said: ”It is very sad to see that unfortunately Richmount Playgroup has had to close its doors. I would like to pay tribute to the staff and community leaders who had the vision to open up the playgroup.
“Having liaised and worked directly with the the Playgroup committee, parents and the education authority to try and save the playgroup it became clear that under the current low numbers it was going to be hard to sustain.
“The committee took the decision to inform parents that the playgroup would be closing. I understand this has been difficult for parents and staff involved.
“I must stress despite what is being reported, at no time was it indicated by the committee, parents or indeed the Education Authority that this decision was Brexit related. Local demographics show a dip in child births in the area which has led to this decision.
“I feel it is unfair to associate Brexit with this decision,” said the MLA.
“The education authority have given me the commitment that all children will be placed elsewhere.”