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Future of only Integrated Primary School on West Bank of Derry is undecided

One parent tells the Derry News how she took the 'difficult' decision to transfer her children to a different school amid the uncertainty

Groarty Integrated Primary School 3

Groarty Integrated Primary School on the Coshquin Road

No decision has yet been taken on the future of Groarty Integrated Primary School, the Derry News has learned.

The Department of Education has however told this paper that a petition signed by parents and pupils at the school will be taken into account by the Permanent Secretary.

Parents were “devastated’ when first informed of proposals to close the Coshquin school after a letter was sent out asking them to attend a meeting with Education Authority officials back in April.

Parents and schoolchildren from Groarty P.S. then hand delivered letters to education chief, Derek Baker, when he visited Derry imploring him to reconsider.

Due to uncertainty surrounding the future of the school, a number of parents have taken the difficult decision to transfer their children to another school.

One such parent, Diana McLaughlin, whose son and daughter attended the school, said: "We actually ended up leaving the school. The uncertainty was a bit too much for us.

"I didn't need the hardship of worrying about finding an appropriate school later so I moved my son to St.Patrick's where we have other children in the family there."

Her son, Haiden, misses Groarty IPS "terribly" and found the transition to a new school "very difficult" but is now settling in well.

Mrs McLaughlin added: "With transfer tests looming, we really wanted to get them settled before all that work kicked off."

She paid tribute to the hard-working staff at Groarty IPS who had a great relationship with the children and persevered in trying circumstances.

Over the weekend, a spokesperson for the Department of Education stated said the Department’s formal consultation period does not close until the 25th November.

“Whilst the Education Authority’s consultation process closed in June, no decision will (or indeed can) be taken on the future of the school until closure of this statutory stage of the process.

“The Department has received a petition from parents and pupils and this will be considered along with the Case for Change before a decision is taken by the Permanent Secretary in the continued absence of a Minister.” 

History

The school has a capacity for 74 pupils and it was anticipated that by transforming from a controlled primary school to a controlled integrated primary school in 2006 that numbers were going to swell.  Since then however pupil numbers each year have fluctuated between 43 and 32 – that may be less for the 2019/20 school year given recent departures.

The school has been a part of the local community for over 150 years.  It attained Integrated status in 2006 and is the only school with Integrated status on the West Bank of the city.

The Education Authority’s consultation document made reference to the other integrated school in the city, Oakgrove Integrated P.S., which operates “near to or over capacity” and therefore couldn’t accommodate pupils from Groarty P.S.

It does however highlight other schools closest to Groarty P.S., such as Irish Medium School Gaelscoil na Daróige and Catholic Maintained Schools St Eithne’s and Holy Family P.S., which the EA says have many unfilled places.

The EA argues that the school’s enrolment falls “well short” of the Sustainable Schools Policy criteria for primary schools, set at 105 pupils for a rural school and 140 pupils for an urban school.

And says in addition there are more than two year groups within a classroom as the school operates as a three teacher school.

The EA has a duty to encourage, facilitate and promote shared education.  And Groarty CIPS has over the past number of years engaged in Shared Education with Gaelscoil na Daróige.

Both schools previously made a joint submission under the Shared Education Campuses Programme for a shared campus. However, in consideration of the numbers of Groarty CIPS and the proposed campus, the Education Authority did not endorse Groarty CIPS’s submission as it would “not provide for a sustainable education campus.”

At the time staff, parents and pupils of the two schools staged a protest march.

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Derry Now editorial team on 028 7129 6600 for Derry City stories Or 028 7774 3970 for County Derry stories. Or you can email editor@derrynews.net or editor@derrypost.com at any time.


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