Northern Ireland

County Antrim Catholic school closure delayed for integration bid

Seaview PS Image copyright Google

A plan to close a Catholic school in August 2020 has been delayed to enable its attempt to transform into an integrated school.

Seaview Primary in Glenarm has now been earmarked for closure in 2021 by the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS).

If Seaview succeeds in becoming an integrated school, it will be the first Catholic school to change in that way.

Pupil numbers have increased by more than 50% since plans were announced.

The school had 42 pupils in 2018/19 but this jumped to 67 in the current school year.

The legal process by which a school changes to become integrated is called transformation.

Actor Liam Neeson had previously appealed for more parents to consider making the change in their children's schools.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionLiam Neeson calls for more integrated schools

A ballot of parents is required before transformation can begin and at least 50% must take part.

In a ballot at Seaview in June 2019, 40 out of 42 parents who responded voted in favour of the integrated option.

CCMS has just published a case for change document explaining their decision to close Seaview Primary School.

The decision is mainly due to concerns over the school's sustainability.

For instance, enrolment had gradually declined from 68 pupils in 2008/09 to 42 a decade later.

"There was no evidence that as a Catholic Maintained School there would be a significant increase in demand in the short, medium or long term in the area to impact the enrolment numbers significantly," the CCMS case for change said.

Opposition

The school's principal Barry Corr and the board of governors "strongly opposed" the decision to close Seaview Primary School in August 2020.

However they also requested that CCMS delay plans to close the school by a year to enable them to have more time to transform to integrated status.

CCMS accepted that request.

There is already an integrated primary school in Carnlough, less than three miles from Seaview Primary School.

Carnlough Controlled Integrated Primary School had 27 pupils in 2018/19.

According to the CCMS case for change, no agreement could be reached on a potential amalgamation of the two schools.

Seaview Primary School must now submit a separate development proposal to the Education Authority (EA) to become integrated.

The EA will then hold a consultation on the plans.

However, it will be up to the Department of Education (DE) to make the final decision on whether the school should become formally integrated and remain open.

More on this story