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Final bell for Belfast school caught up in political storm

A Belfast primary school which was caught up in a political row after the Secretary of State blasted the “criminal waste of money” in our education system is to close.

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane has announced the closure of Grove Primary, which has only five pupils. The school, which is located in the North Queen Street/York Road area of north Belfast, became caught up in political wrangling involving Secretary of State Owen Paterson.

Although responsibility for education is devolved, Mr Paterson spoke out at a Conservative conference fringe meeting this week to call Northern Ireland’s segregated school system “a criminal waste of money”.

He repeated his comments in his main speech yesterday, although he again failed to deliver details on what he thought should replace the current system.

Earlier this week he gave the example of Grove Primary and Beechfield Primary in east Belfast — which was approved for closure last Friday and has no pupils.

Ms Ruane yesterday branded Mr Paterson’s comments “irresponsible” and “ill-informed”.

However, they were welcomed by the Integrated Education Fund and the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE).

NICIE’s chief executive officer Noreen Campbell said: “Owen Paterson has put the case for integrated education firmly back on the agenda. NICIE welcomes this intervention. For too long the elephant in the room, the price of subsidising segregation, has not been questioned.”

Commenting on her decision on Grove Primary, Ms Ruane said: “The vast majority of Grove pupils have already moved to the Seaview Primary School site and the Belfast Education and Library Board will make the necessary transfer arrangements for the remaining pupils.”

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