FARMERS For Action is grateful to Maurice Bradley, MLA, for arranging a meeting with the Education Minister Michelle McIlveen on the serious issue of rural school closures across Northern Ireland.
FFA previously helped Ballyhacket School near Castlerock and Barnish PS near Ballycastle fight the battle with the Education Authority (EA) and CCMS against their closures.
For this meeting FFA asked the principals of Straid Primary School near Ballyclare and Ballougry Primary School near Londonderry to accompany them, along with a representative each from their Board of Governors. The party met an hour in advance of the meeting with the Minister and were not expecting the discovery that was to unfold.
Sean McAuley, FFA, stated that whilst each of the two schools knew they were going to the meeting, all the correspondence had gone through FFA and the two principals hadn’t met until the day.
For them at opposite ends of Northern Ireland to then meet and talk briefly only to discover common ground thrust upon them by EA did not show EA top civil servants in a good light, he said.
FFA urged the Minister to put an end to school closures.
At the meeting Straid principal Dawn Boyd got the chance to hand over to the Minister her school’s well-documented appeal against closure. The file had previously been unable to be delivered due to Covid-19.
Ballougry principal Damian O’Kane pointed out to the Minister that he came with the full support of
Derry City and Strabane District Council.
In addition, he added, the school had the full support of many local MLAs.
In rounding up, FFA made it clear to the Minister that the closure of any more rural schools was totally unacceptable and was potentially contravening the Rural Needs Act, a point that FFA intends to push forward at the highest level.
The last point made to the Minister was that alongside great privilege comes great responsibility and that the time had come for her to use the power that she has to end the sustainable school policy as a completely flawed strategy.
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