The death knell for rural schools?

RURAL schools have been worst affected in the plans for the closure of primary schools in Mid-Ulster, it has been claimed.

In response to this, The Ulster Farmers’ Union has written to the Minister for Education John O’Dowd and the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Education Committee to express the Union’s disappointment and also to request a meeting, following the Publication of Strategic Area Plans Primary Provision.

UFU Deputy President Barclay Bell said the Area Plans have a detrimental affect on rural primary schools.

“It remains a fact that rural schools have come out worst affected. A disproportionate number of rural schools have been earmarked for closure or suggesting a local area solution needs to be found,” she said.

The UFU believes there are a number of alternatives that could be employed to keep a number of these schools open and enhance their viability.

Mr Bell continued; “There is an opportunity for the school buildings to be used beyond a typical school day providing a variety of services such as a meeting venue, gym facilities, and a location for the delivery of evening classes. This could potentially generate an additional revenue stream for the school. Resources could also be shared between schools such as staff, equipment, facilities and transport. This would reduce costs for the school and still allow each school to maintain its own identity.”

The UFU firmly believes that the Department of Education should be committed to protecting rural schools and their unique place in communities.