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Parents in save our school plea to First Minister Peter Robinson

By Rebecca Black

Supporters of an under-threat primary school are set to take their case to the First Minister.

Avoniel Primary School has been a fixture in inner east Belfast for almost 80 years, but will not survive to see its milestone birthday next year.

Despite healthy enrolment numbers of 152 and a good rating by the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI), the Belfast Education and Library Board (BELB) voted to close the school.

BELB will send a development proposal to Education Minister John O'Dowd to close Avoniel, and to increase enrolment at nearby Elmgrove Primary.

A new school will then be created on the site of Avoniel Primary.

It is understood that, in essence, the two schools will be merged on the Avoniel site with a new name and uniform. It is not yet know how many staff redundancies there will be.

Mr O'Dowd will have to approve the BELB development proposal before it becomes policy.

Eileen Conlane, who has a daughter at Avoniel, told the Belfast Telegraph that parents were feeling upset and confused.

There are already 17 applications from parents of children to start in P1 at Avoniel next September.

"Our school is structurally fine, our pupils are all achieving what they should be, now we may be forced to send our kids somewhere else because they see fit to close our school," she said.

"There is no reason why we should be closed so we are not happy with it. We are meeting First Minister Peter Robinson next week, and then see where we can go from there.

"We have a lot of questions that need answered, and we are worried about the four-year disruption that our kids will be put through."

A BELB spokesman said: "The board approved the submission of a development proposal to the Department of Education to close Avoniel Primary School with effect from August 31, 2015 or as soon as possible thereafter, to increase enrolment at Elmgrove Primary School, and to establish a 52-place full-time nursery unit, and Key Stage 1 and 2 learning support classes in Elmgrove Primary from September 1, 2015.

"The board further approved a proposal to instigate dialogue between all relevant stakeholders to develop a new and agreed identity for a school on the site of Avoniel Primary School."

Background

Avoniel Primary School has been thriving in inner east Belfast for almost 80 years.

Many of the parents of children at the school attended there themselves, and their parents attended before them.

The school building is a local community hub, operating a respite service on Saturday for parents of children with special needs.

Supporters will take their case to First Minister Peter Robinson next week.

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