Proposal to close Ballougry published and 2 month objection period opens
People now have two months to submit objections to the closure of Ballougry Primary School after the Education Authority formally published a Development Proposal to close the school next year.
Sara Long, Chief Executive of the EA, has officially published the proposal to close the school in Derry city's rural hinterland close to the border with Killea.
The move follows a pre-publication consultation earlier this year.
The proposal under Article 14 of the Education and Libraries (NI) Order 1986 is that 'Ballougry Primary School will discontinue with effect from August 31, 2023, or as soon as possible thereafter.'
Two petitions to save the school have garnered over 2,000 signatures.
A 'Case for Change' document published by the EA alongside the Development Proposal notes: "The two petitions have a total of 2,414 signatures. The signatures are representative of both local and worldwide interest with signatures from Derry/Londonderry to Australia, Canada, United States and a large number from Ireland."
The document states that the school is currently running a deficit and this is forecast to rise.
"Ballougry Primary School does not operate within its in-year budget and had a deficit of -£129,092 at 31 March 2021. The school’s financial plan 2020-2023, shows that it is anticipated this deficit will continue to increase with the projected deficit at the end of financial year 2023 to -£256,089," it states.
However, falling pupil numbers are the main rationale given for the proposal.
"Ballougry Primary School has always been a small primary school with an enrolment over the past five years not exceeding, at its highest, 80 pupils. The school was identified in the Annual Action Plan 2019-21, identified as a ‘school provision where sustainability is an issue’ with the action ‘Managing authority to consult on options for future primary provision in Ballougry Primary School by October 2020.’ In September 2020, the school admitted six pupils in Year 1. This has resulted in the enrolment falling to 42 pupils.
"With nine pupils enrolled in Year 1 at September 2021, the enrolment number has increased to 44 pupils. The low enrolment numbers will continue to place increased pressure on the financial resources of the school and also on the teaching staff.
"The proposal will meet the outcomes for all including additional support to those who require it, ensuring those children with Special Educational Needs realise their full potential. Pupils with Special Educational Needs will continue to have their special educational requirements met within local schools, supported by Children and Young People Services," the document states.
The Ballougry school community and its supporters now have two months to object to the closure proposal. The matter is now being considered by the Department of Education.
Back in June, the Education Minister Michelle McIlveen said: "My Department becomes involved at the point a DP is published. This triggers a statutory two month objection period. During this two month period anyone is able to submit their views on the published DP directly to my Department.
"At the end of the statutory objection period, Departmental officials will gather and assess all the relevant information and evidence and will present a submission to me for my ultimate decision," she stated.