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Meeting to reassure parents

By Gemma Burns

The principal of a North Belfast primary school has reassured parents the school is going nowhere and will continue to educate children in the area after rumours it could be set to close. Kieran McGarry, head teacher of St Mary’s Star of the Sea Primary School in Greencastle, spoke out to quash rumours the school might be set to close its doors. The rumours come after the BELB announced one of the school’s nearest neighbouring school Ballygolan is to close next year.

Mr McGarry said he had been holding a number of meetings with parents to reassure them the school will not be closing.

“There has been a lot of press coverage on school audits which did cause some parents to worry,” he said.

“The audits were looking at finance, enrolment and standards and where schools are falling down, it is estimated that 50 per cent of primary school are falling down in one of those areas. Our stress area is enrolment because our numbers have gone down due to demographics in the area and smaller families.

“I met with parents to tell them however that next year our primary one enrolment is high and we are very optimistic for the future.”

Mr McGarry said the school’s strength is that it is a small school from a close community.

“We are a small school and a very family orientated school where each individual child is well care for and looked after.

“We are in an area of fairly high social deprivation and the levels of support we have had from the parents is just wonderful.

“The meetings we have had have been full of goodwill and we are harnessing that goodwill in talks about how we can improve the school. There is a real buzz about the place.”

Nearby Ballygolan Primary School is set to close next year due to falling pupil numbers.

Ballygolan PS off the Whitewell Road will close its doors permanently in September 2013. The school currently has less than 60 pupils and was placed on the Department of Education’s list of schools in the Formal Intervention Process in a bid to improve standards.

A spokesman for the BELB confirmed the school is set to close. “The board has received a letter from the Board of Governors of Ballygolan PS indicating that it wishes to cease educational provision on the site from August 31 2013.”

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