Balnamore Primary School could be at risk of closure due to falling enrolment numbers, according to provisions set out in the Education Authorities (EA) Strategic Area Plan 2022-27.
Area Planning aims to ensure that all primary and post-primary pupils have access to a broad and balanced curriculum that meets their educational needs in a school that is educationally and financially viable and sustainable.
In response to a Freedom of Information request, a spokesperson for the Education Authority (EA) told the Ballymoney Bubble that the: “EA can confirm that Balnamore Primary School is included in the Strategic Area Plan 2022-27 with a key issue to ‘Address school provision where sustainability is an issue and ensure school places are located as required’.
“In setting the priorities for the Strategic Area Plan for Education (2022-27) former Education Minister Michelle McIlveen stated it was important ‘to bring forward proposals to address the issue of primary pupils being taught in composite classes of more than two year groups; despite the best efforts of teachers it becomes more difficult to deliver a high quality education if pupils are taught in composite classes of more than two year groups. I would like to see shared solutions coming forward which maintain education provision in communities where unsustainable schools exist and this focus should be on creating a vibrant sustainable primary school where each pupil is in a class with a single year group.’
“Balnamore Primary School is experiencing low pupil numbers. In September 2021, the school had an enrolment of 45 pupils, but this has subsequently fallen to below 30 pupils, significantly below the minimum threshold of 105 pupils for a rural primary school.
“The Education Authority continues to engage with the Board of Governors regarding the school’s sustainability.”
Concern regarding the potential closure of the rural school has mounted within the village of Balnamore, and the local Community Association has set up an online petition.
The petition, which can be viewed HERE, reads: “Balnamore Primary School has been an important part of the village for over 50 years, providing quality education for generations of children. The Education Authority is proposing a consultation about the future of. Our school plays an important role not only in the lives of the pupils themselves but in the local community in connecting people through a shared local bond. The school being local to pupils also helps to encourage shared responsibility between pupils and parents. It has a dedicated staff who have built connections both with pupils and families in the area.
“We named ask that the consultation for the future of Balnamore Primary School brings forward a number of options, which must not exclusively be one of closure.”
Speaking about the primary school’s current situation, a local representative for the area, Councillor Ivor Wallace, has said: “Unfortunately, Balnamore PS has been in decline for some years. A public consultation is now taking place. It
The buildings in Balnamore are far too good to go to rack and ruin. The Education Authority have to look positively at Balnamore both in the short and long term.”