Attempts by a Catholic school to become the first in Northern Ireland to switch to integrated status could be thwarted by confusion over whether it can keep its building.
Clintyclay Primary School in Dungannon has been fighting for two years to transform into an integrated school after it was ear-marked for closure.
The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) submitted a proposal to the Department of Education seeking to close the school, arguing that the pupil numbers were too small to justify it remaining open.
The decision over whether to close the school or let it join the integrated sector is currently with Education Minister John O’Dowd. If it is allowed to change status in a landmark move, there is no guarantee Clintyclay will be allowed to remain in its current building which is owned by trustees, a group of senior clerics representing the Catholic Church.
The matter of ownership — and how it would impact on becoming integrated — was discussed at the Stormont Education Committee yesterday.
DUP MLA Jonathan Craig asked Malachy Crudden from the CCMS what would happen to Clintyclay’s school building if it was successful in achieving integrated status.
Mr Crudden said CCMS would issue advice to the trustees on what to do but would not confirm whether the building would be taken from the school, offered for rent, given to the school or offered for sale.
A CCMS spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph: “That is a matter that we would be up for discussion if the possibility arises.”
As Clintyclay is the first Catholic maintained school to attempt to become integrated, there is no legal precedent for what would happen.
Chairman of Clintyclay’s board of governors, Gerard Cunningham, said it would look for the 1989 Education Act on the property issue.
“As yet we have had no word on what will happen to the building and CCMS are right to say it will be the trustees who own it,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
“There is legislation provided in the event of such a happening and that will have to be looked at.
Mr Cunningham said that while pupils number dropped when CCMS initially discussed closure, they have since risen.
He added that it has been a long, hard battle over two yearsfor the school, which is fighting to remain open.
In the school year 2012-13, it had 33 pupils, this fell to 24 in 2013-14 but rose to 33 in the current year.
A spokesman for the Department of Education said the minister was “currently considering all the information pertinent to the development proposal in relation to Clintyclay Primary School and will make a decision in due course.”
Clintyclay Primary School in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, is the first school from the Catholic sector to apply to become integrated. The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools has proposed that the school be closed because of its small pupil numbers.
But the school has applied to become integrated. Both proposals are currently with Education Minister John O’Dowd who is expected to make a decision on whether to close the school or grant integrated status soon.