‘No decision yet’ on school closure plan

Staff at Immaculate Conception College have been informed of redundancies.
Staff at Immaculate Conception College have been informed of redundancies.

The North’s Education Minister has told the ‘Journal’ that no decision has yet been made on a proposal to close a secondary school in Derry’s Waterside.

John O’Dowd spoke out after a Foyle MLA voiced concern for the future of a number of jobs at Immaculate Conception College.

It’s claimed six staff at the school are facing redundancy.

Declining pupil numbers have led the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) to recommend its closure.

A public consultation on plans to begin closing the school on a phased basis, starting in September, ended last month.

SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey says there is a lot of anger in the local community.

“The Education Minister has questions to answer about the future of this school and I will be submitting an urgent Assembly question about the rationale for these redundancies immediately,” he said.

John O’Dowd, however, has rejected suggestions that the school has lost funding due to changes to the schools funding formula.

“In fact, the school has received additional funds as a result of my changes,” he said. “The reduction in their budget compared to the previous year has come about because the number of pupils enrolling at the school has fallen dramatically over the same period. That is a result of parents choosing to send their children to other post-primary schools in Derry. That is completely outside of my control.”

He added: “It is CCMS, and not my Department, that employs the teachers at Immaculate Conception College and it is CCMS, as the managing authority of the Catholic-maintained schools estate, that has put forward the proposal to close the school.

“No decision has yet been made on that proposal.”

He added: “Any decision I make on proposals of this kind are always based on the best educational interests of the children, rather than institutions.”