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Decision to close St Mary's High School in Brollagh is reversed at least until August 2018

Democrat Reporter

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Decision to close St Mary's High School in Brollagh  is reversed at least until August 2018

The chairperson of the St Mary’s Brollagh Parents Council has welcomed the decision of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) to withdraw a proposal to close the school by August 31 next year.

The CCMS made a U-turn in a letter to the Board of Governors of a school that is just over a mile from the Donegal border on Thursday, and it has resulted in claims of a “victory for people power”.

It had threatened to close the school which is located between Belleek and Garrision in Fermanagh by August 31 next year.

But the body gave no explanation for the dramatic U-turn. However they have apparently hinted that the “proposal” to close the school could be re-visited.

Parents Council Chairperson Mr Seamus Kelm said it was great news but that the parents of the children at the school would not accept “short term solutions” or “stays of execution”. He added that parents groups would “ be reluctant to engage with the CCMS unless there was a clear road map planned out”.

In their letter, seen by the Donegal Democrat, the Education Provision Committee of the CCMS said it had “discussed the issues raised during the public objection period to the proposal to cease provision at St Mary’s High School Brollagh.

“Having given these matters their due consideration the Committee has determined that they wish to withdraw the current development proposal.

“The Committee did however emphasise their commitment to addressing the educational needs of children in the Brollagh area and so will revisit the proposal subject to exploration of a wider area solution.

“CCMS would wish to convey our thanks to you, the staff and governors during this difficult period and of course we will continue to engage with you in the future as alternative proposals emerge”.

In response, Mr Kelm said: “The Education Provisions Committee of the CCMS state that “they are committed to the education provision of the children in the Brollagh area.

“Therefore they will have to be held to account and deliver. We will not accept any short term solutions as “stays of execution” but rather we demand proper research and consultation into establishing a sustainable school that will serve the present and next generation of young people in west Fermanagh.

“Parents would be reluctant to engage with the CCMS unless there is a “clear road map” planned out and we see from the education providers a sincere willingness to engage meaningfully with all stakeholders to establish a school that will last for future generations. We have been here before in June 2009 and again in June 2014 when we were promised that real consultation would take place into getting a solution, but this never happened.

“This time we will not accept anything less than what the children of the are deserve which is meaningful action and investment into the future of education in this area of Fermanagh which has been ignored for decades," he said.

Angry parents of the 84 pupil school had been due to go to Bangor to the headquarters of the Education Authority to hand in a series of objections to the proposal, the third of its kind since 2008 last Friday. They claimed there were legislative breaches that made a consultation process on the proposed closure “invalid”.

A spokesperson said they were asking the Department of Education to return the proposal to the CCMS to ensure that they comply with legislation. Former Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster was also due to accompany the parents to Bangor on Friday. This trip was cancelled.