Health Minister Edwin Poots has thrown his weight behind a campaign to halt the closure of a school that has been heralded for trailblazing work with children with special educational needs.
Knockmore Primary School near Lisburn had been earmarked for possible closure but yesterday Mr Poots said he would be making a submission to the governing education board to urge them to rethink the plans.
Last month shocked parents were told the school’s fate hung in the balance after the South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) claimed it was not viable in terms of pupil numbers — if children being supported in the special units were not taken into consideration.
Ever since parents have been adding signatories to a petition to fight the proposal and will present it to the Education Minister at Stormont on Monday, ahead of the SEELB’s final decision, which is expected to be announced on Thursday.
Knockmore is an integrated primary school with five mainstream classes and seven classes for children with speech, language and communication difficulties.
One in three children who attend the mainstream school are catered for in its special unit.
It has had to be expanded over the years due to the high demand for its specialist educational support.
Following yesterday’s visit to the school, Mr Poots said he was “very impressed by the professionalism and dedication” of the school’s teaching staff.
And it was confirmed that Mr Poots will be putting in a submission in an effort to help the campaign to keep the school’s doors open.
Lagan Valley DUP Assembly Member Paul Givan, who attended the minister’s visit, described the draft proposal to close the school as “ill-conceived”.
Mr Givan will present the petition to the Speaker of the Assembly, which he said carried nearly 8,000 names.
Fiona Darragh, one of the campaigning parents, said she was delighted the minister “recognises that Knockmore is such a unique school that does such a wonderful job for the children”.