Sunday, May 19, 2024

PUPILS RETURN TO ST ANNE’S

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DETERMINED parents of threatened St Anne’s Primary School in Donaghadee returned their children to the school on Friday as they continue their battle for its future.

A small group of youngsters began their next school year at the school, which has been earmarked for closure by the Department for Education in just under two months, on October 31.

The rest of the pupils who would have been returning with their friends have been placed in other schools, with parents saying the closest schools are now well over-subscribed following the influx. 

The Department’s controversial decision to approve the Council for Catholic Maintained School’s proposal to axe the school was announced on June 8.

Some of the parents who gathered at the school gates on Friday said they were going to fight the closure with every avenue available to them. 

One determined parent, Claire Brashier, said she was adamant she was going to see it through to the bitter end. 

“I’m determined to keep the school open,” she said. “There are over 490 new houses coming and Donaghadee Primary School is oversubscribed by 50 already.”

The only option she could envisage was Loughries Primary School, approximately seven miles away, but she said that was just not ideal.

Stating that most parents recognised school journeys take longer for older children attending secondary level education, Claire maintained it was not the same for younger children.

Her sister Gemma Brashier had already taken her children out of another school in recent years to have them educated at St Anne’s. 

“I had to take my children out of another school because of bullying so that’s how we ended up here, and it’s been really good for them,” said Gemma. “They’re brilliant here.” 

She said she ‘really hoped’ the school could manage to fight the closure. 

The sisters said their children were ‘very aware’ that the school’s fate was uncertain and said they were all very upset about it. 

“They don’t want to lose their wee friends and so many of them have already gone.”

Among the prime sore points among the St Anne’s community was the fact that a number of other schools earmarked for closure were given a full year to prepare.

Parent Louise Blythe pointed to that anomaly when she said the school had grounds to fight the closure, which will be among the aspects of the controversy which a Judicial Review will seek to address.

The chair of the school’s board of governors, Gillian McCollum said the board had been ‘greatly heartened by all the support shown for St. Anne’s PS in recent months’. 

Acknowledging the efforts parents had made, from protest letters and a local petition of 2000 signatures protesting the closure, she said: “St. Anne’s has been a welcoming and contributing part of Donaghadee for 91 years and we are not surprised to see that our entire community, including residents, businesses, councillors, and MLAs have all come out to object to this flawed decision by the Department of Education to close a thriving and successful primary school.”

The local Alliance councillor referred to the planned closure of a Co Tyrone primary school which its board of governors described as ‘misguided’, and stated: “We have noted and welcomed the apology from the Chair of the CCMS, Bishop Donal McKeown, to St. Mary’s Primary School in Fivemiletown, following concerns raised about “inappropriate” aspects of its decision-making process, and we have raised our own concerns over the same questionable process in relation to St Anne’s.

“This is in addition to separate legal action, which is being taken by parents at the school,” she continued.

“In the meantime, St. Anne’s PS is continuing to do what it does best – providing an outstanding, educational experience for the children of Donaghadee and beyond.”

 

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