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Education Minister John O'Dowd gives green light for three schools to amalgamate

By Rebecca Black

Education Minister John O'Dowd has approved the latest in a string of major amalgamations of Catholic schools.

Three primary schools in south Down are to work together from next September.

They are St Joseph's Primary School, Ballymartin, Moneydarragh Primary School and St Mary's Primary School, Glassdrumman. It is expected that all three schools will eventually amalgamate on a new site to accommodate up to 205 children.

In the meantime the schools will continue on their current sites until a new site and funding has been identified for the new build. These schools are managed by the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools.

The body is currently undergoing a major restructuring of schools.

It has recently consulted on the future of education in Coleraine/Portstewart, west Belfast and south Fermanagh areas.

Mr O'Dowd said amalgamation was the most effective use of resourcing.

"This proposal aims to consolidate and deliver more sustainable Catholic-maintained primary provision for children in the Lower Mourne area of Co Down in the long term," he said.

"Having considered all of the available evidence, I am satisfied that approval of the amalgamation is the best way forward." Each of these schools has a small enrolment. St Mary's is the smallest with an enrolment of 52, Moneydarragh has 79 and St Joseph's has 89.

Mr O'Dowd said these numbers were too small to sustain.

"Enrolments at the schools are insufficient to justify all three continuing on a stand-alone basis."

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