Community campaign opposes closure of Clady school

April 1, 2013

The Principal of St Michael’s Primary School, Clady has described last Thursday’s huge community turnout in strong support of the campaign against the recommended closure of the school as proof of “the tenacious community spirit within this small rural environment.”

Principal Paul Hart said the school was pivotal to the Clady community and invaluable to everyone within it.

“Its closure would have a detrimental effect on this rural community.   Furthermore, it would initiate the demise of Clady’s identity as a community” he said.

Addressing the huge crowd, Mr Hart thanked everyone who had turned up to support the campaign adding,

“Our parents, past parents, pupils and past pupils are totally opposed to the proposals to consult on the potential closure of the school.  Also, we would like to thank those parents who want their children to enrol in our school next year and in subsequent years.  We will endeavour to provide the excellent standard of education that generations have received and our community has endorsed this for future generations.  Our school is regarded as the heartbeat of our community and binds all the strands of Clady together.”

Also speaking at the event, Mickey Savage, Chairman of the Steering Group leading the campaign said,

“St Michael’s P.S. is an integral part of our small rural community and we will strenuously campaign to ensure it remains open.  On behalf of the Steering group, I would like to thank all those in the local community for supporting our campaign and for turning up on such a cold morning. Special thanks to Clady Tiny Tots Group, Sean South Football Club, St Michael’s P.S. Board of Governors, Aira Oates Early Years Specialist, our local MLA’s Cathal Boylan and Dominic O’Brolchain, and our Lord Mayor Sharon Haughey-Grimley for their support. We unequivocally oppose all proposals to close St Michael’s P.S, Clady and we will arduously campaign to keep it open for future generations.”

Mr Joseph McGleenan, Chairman of Board Of Governors for St Michael’s PS, Clady and Fr Peter Kerr PP, Trustee Governor have reiterated the Board of Governors’ vehement opposition to the CCMS proposals and revealed they will be making a studied response before the 29th April, 2013.

Other community groups also stood strong in their support of the campaign to keep the doors of St Michael’s PS open:

Karen Savage, Secretary for Sean South Football Club voiced the club’s support for the campaign saying,

“The committee, players and members of Clady GFC Clady wish to express their deep concern over the proposed closure of St Michael’s School in Clady. We have a very close working relationship with the school.  They have full use of our community hall and football field whenever they request.  Our community is stunned at this news.  We live in a very rural farming area.  Our football club is part of that community as is the school; the two go together, if one isn’t there the other will disintegrate and disappear. We need both these links to keep our community alive.  We need everyone’s support to keep our school open.”

Bronagh Beagan, Playgroup Leader of Clady Tiny Tots described the proposed closure of the primary school as “devastating” and said it would have a knock on effect on the Pre-school.

“We have 40 children enrolled this year, and a large majority will be moving to St. Michael’s next year. If it were to close, our community would be damaged, children would be displaced and jobs would be lost.”

Ms Pat McGuckian, Principal of St Patrick’s High School said her school was extremely concerned to learn of the possible closure of one of its valued partner schools.

“The vision of St Patrick’s is to provide excellence every day for every child from 3-19 years. The link with St Michael’s Primary School has afforded opportunities for staff to develop links with the community in Clady and to improve outcomes in St Patrick’s by learning from the excellent practice in this school. The Minister for Education (John O’Dowd) attended a meeting of our Derrynoose, Killcluney and Tynan Learning Community on 20th December 2012 and identified the link with our partner primaries as a model of transition for all schools to follow. Pupils in St Michael’s experience a first-class education, and a seamless transition to post-primary school without the stress and burden of high stakes testing at eleven. Our model of partnership between the primaries and post-primary school reflects the vision of both the Irish Bishops and the Department of Education. We know of the strong parental support St Michael’s enjoys and we hope that the school can be saved.”

Cllr Sharon Haughey-Grimley, Lord Mayor of Armagh and past pupil of Clady school was unable to attend the protest but sent her full support.  She paid tribute to the people of Clady who had come together to fight to save the school and continued,

“This is about securing the excellent education provision provided by St Michael’s Primary School for future generations of children and young people in Clady.  It’s about saving our school and protecting our rural community.  Together we stand strong to fight these recommendations and to tell the Minister of Education how important our school is to the rural community. Clady school is viable, with a sound financial plan, provides excellent education delivery and the school is at the heart of the community.  It makes no sense whatsoever to close a good school that’s meeting all the main targets.  I join the people of Clady in this fight, and I know we can win this battle to save our school.”

Local MLA’s have also shown their strong support for the campaign, with SDLP MLA Dominic O’Brolchain describing the school as “an integral part of the Clady community” which is held in high esteem by all the parents in delivering a “first class education to all its pupils.”

“The attendance here today is a clear indication of the value the community places on their school” he added.

Cathal Boylan, Sinn Fein MLA also addressed the meeting saying,

“Today saw the coming together of a strong rural community in a campaign to save their school, at the heart of this campaign is the education of their children and the future sustainability and identity of Clady as a community. I fully support the steering group and the people of Clady in their fight to save their school.”

A Public Forum Meeting with the CCMS will be held on Tuesday 9th April 2013 at 7pm in Clady Community Club.  The Steering Group invite the very important continued support from the community, staff, parents, community groups, rural development groups, MLA’s, councillors and the Armagh Lord Mayor.