Belfast Telegraph

School closure of Dungannon primary moves to High Court

Parents claim 'improper' motive lies behind bid to close first Catholic primary as it attempts to become integrated

By Alan Erwin

An improper motive allegedly lies behind the proposed closure of the first Catholic school in Northern Ireland to attempt a transformation to integrated status, the High Court heard today.

Lawyers for the parents of a child at Clintyclay Primary School made the claim against the body which oversees the Catholic maintained sector.

The allegation forms part of a wider legal challenge to Education Minister John O'Dowd's decision to shut the school in Dungannon, Co Tyrone.

Mr Justice Treacy was due to hear the first stage today in a bid to have the move reversed.

But because of the complexity and breadth of the case it was instead decided to move straight to a full application at a later date.

In October last year Mr O'Dowd announced he was approving Clintyclay Primary's closure later this year.

With its enrolment having dropped below 30 pupils, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) had proposed that it should close.

An alternative proposal advanced by Clintyclay Primary's Board of Governors to change the school's management to grant-maintained integrated status was rejected.

At the time of his announcement the Minister said its enrolment numbers meant it was no longer sustainable.

Due to this long-term unsustainability transformation to integrated status is not a feasible option for Clintyclay Primary, he added.

Now, however, his decision is to be subjected to judicial scrutiny.

During a brief hearing today counsel for the Minister said that a 12-page affidavit filed on behalf of the applicant contains just one paragraph about the Department of Education.

"Everything else refers to the CCMS and their involvement," he said.

"They seek to make the point that it affects the Department's reasoning in various ways.

"There's a clear allegation that the CCMS acted with an improper motive."

Ronan Lavery QC, for the parents taking the legal challenge, agreed with the assessment.

"There's an allegation of improper motive in the statement which I'm sure they will want to respond to," he told the court.

Mr Justice Treacy agreed to list the case for a full, two-day hearing at a later date suitable to the parties.

Read more:

Education Minister John O'Dowd defends closure of Clintyclay Primary  

School closure is based on best interest of pupils Legal challenge to Clintyclay Primary School closure plan Minster urged to keep Clintyclay Primary School open for another year My View: Improved deliberation with public is needed on integrated education

 

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