Belfast Telegraph

Decision due on whether to close school attempting integration swap, court hears

By Alan Erwin

The Department of Education is to take a new decision on whether to close the first Catholic school in Northern Ireland attempting a transformation to integrated status, the High Court heard on Friday.

A judge was told the Board of Governors at Clintyclay Primary in Dungannon, Co Tyrone and other interested parties will be given six weeks to provide updated information before the permanent secretary in the Department makes a fresh determination on its future.

The outcome brings an end to marathon legal action aimed at preventing the school from shutting.

The parents of a pupil at Clintyclay had launched judicial review proceedings after former Education Minister John O'Dowd approved a proposal to close it.

At the time of his announcement in October 2014 Mr O'Dowd said enrolment levels meant it was no longer sustainable.

With pupil numbers having dropped below 30 pupils at that stage, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) had proposed that it should close.

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

But lawyers for the parents argued that the closure decision should have been deferred until a full assessment of the transformation option was carried out.

In 2015 a High Court judge quashed the decision to shut the school.

He held that erroneous information about Clintyclay facing financial problems had made its way into the decision making process.

He said this may have originated from a CCMS parish review which was fiercely disputed by the school and parents.

However the error occurred, the judge ruled that it "infected" the Minister's decision.

Following an appeal the case was remitted to Lord Justice Treacy for reconsideration of his ruling.

He was set to re-examine the reasons behind Mr O'Dowd's decision until the alternative outcome was confirmed following negotiations.

Tony McGleenan QC, for the Department, told the court: "The Board of Governors, the applicant and the CCMS are to make representations to the Department within six weeks in respect of the development proposals.

"The Department will then make a fresh determination in light of those updated representations."

Mr McGleenan added: "The further decision that is taken will be based on the updated information, therefore there is no point in continuing these proceedings."

With all parties consenting to the outcome, Lord Justice Treacy agreed to bring an end to the case.

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