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Two rural Co Tyrone primary schools at risk of being shut over falling numbers

Opposing closure: Rosemary Barton
Opposing closure: Rosemary Barton
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Two rural primary schools in Co Tyrone are facing closure due to falling pupil numbers.

The Education Authority (EA) is considering the future of Gillygooley and Dunmullan state controlled schools outside Omagh.

The EA is proposing that both two-teacher schools close after the 2020/21 school year.

Over the last five years, the enrolment at Gillygooley PS had remained steady at around 30 children. There were 26 pupils in September 2018, but numbers fell to just 23 this year, compared to 49 pupils a decade ago.

The EA says that based on admission trends and birth rates in the area, numbers are not projected to increase substantially.

There are three other controlled schools nearby - Gibson Primary, Langfield and Omagh County.

Since September 2014, Dunmullan PS has also experienced a downturn in enrolment, currently at 27 pupils, down from 67 ten years ago. With one new pupil starting last September, it is expected numbers will fall further in 2020. Alongside Gibson and Omagh County, the area is served by two other schools in Gortin and Newtownstewart.

Before publishing final recommendations early in 2020, the EA is seeking the views of those most directly involved.

Separately, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) is undertaking a consultation on the proposed closure of St Eugene's PS, Tircur.

Earlier this year the annual action plan published by the EA revealed that more than 20 schools across Northern Ireland could be considered for closure due to sustainability issues.

It detailed areas where schools should close, merge or expand to ensure pupils "have access to a broad and balanced curriculum that meets their needs within a diverse system of education through a network of sustainable schools".

Four of the 22 schools identified are in the Dromore area of Co Tyrone. So far this year the Department of Education has approved the closure of nine primary schools.

Ulster Unionist education spokesperson Rosemary Barton said: "While the demographic of an area changes with the more flexible movement of populations, it is however a great loss to a locality if a school has to close due to falling numbers.

"However, given the absence of a Minister of Education to make decisions, schools should not be earmarked for closure.

"Both Gillygooley and Dunmullan PS have had very favourable inspections in recent years and pupils are achieving to the best of their ability."

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