Anamar P.S. campaign steps up a gear

February 17, 2009

The campaign by parents to avert the proposed closure of Anamar Primary School has stepped up a gear following a series of meetings with the representatives from the school’s Board of Governors, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) and the Diocesan Education Committee (DEC).

It has emerged that, following a review of education in Crossmaglen parish, the DEC took the decision to put forward two proposals for the future of the school – amalgamation with St. Patrick’s Primary School in Crossmaglen or definitive closure.

Its parent body, CCMS, subsequently convened public meetings to give parents the opportunity to have their views heard and during the past week, two pre-consultation meetings, where CCMS was represented by Ms Loretta Bullock and Mr Seamus O’Neill, were held in Crossmaglen Rangers Hall to facilitate the parents and anyone with a vested interest in the future of Anamar P.S.

There was a huge attendance at both meetings, where concerned parents and public representatives took to the floor to register their clear opposition to any proposed closure or amalgamation of Anamar primary school.

It was apparent as the meetings progressed that the depth of emotion and sentiment felt by the parents, and those closely associated with the school, had been seriously underestimated.  This led to several heated exchanges as tenacious views and opinions were put forward on the school’s future.

It was stated that St. Patrick’s P.S. already relies on temporary classrooms to accommodate pupils and the forced amalgamation of Anamar pupils would place further pressure on the school and its staff.  It was also pointed out that no consideration was given to Eastern European children whose families have moved to the area and who will also attend the school, or to the recent changes in rural planning policy which will inevitably mean the construction of more houses and an influx of families to the town. 

The CCMS representatives conceded that these, and other factors, were not taken into consideration at this time.

Local Sinn Fein councillor Terry Hearty stated the preservation of our rural communities is becoming increasingly in danger and closing the school would be a serious blow to the area.

Referring to the changes in rural planning policy with the introduction of PPS21, Mr Hearty said, “We have now reached a stage where we have a policy which will help to get much needed homes back in the heart of our community.  It will allow for rural people to return to the town lands where they were born and reared. These proposals will make a major difference to schools like Anamar.

“At last week’s meeting in the Rangers hall, it was made very clear by the parents and Board of Governors that the only option is to keep Anamar school open.  The only way forward now is to try and undo the damage caused by the assumptions of CCMS,” he said.  “As an elected representative for this area, I pledge my full support to the parents of Anamar to keep this school open and will assist them in whatever way I can.” 

In conclusion, Ms Bullock and Mr O’Neill confirmed that they would return to higher authority within the CCMS and put forward a new proposal, which was not listed in the original options – that Anamar Primary School remain open in its current form.  This proposal was carried unanimously by all present.

This, and any other submissions on the future of the school, must be presented to CCMS by 13th March 2009.  Submissions can be made in writing to CCMS, Armagh Diocesan Office, 1 Killyman Road, Dungannon BT71 6DE or by email to:

Councillor Terry Hearty also proposed that a damage limitation exercise be initiated in an attempt to redress the harm these latest aspersions have cast on the projected enrolment figures at Anamar primary.  He categorically placed the blame on the Diocesan Education Committee and CCMS and subsequently called for them to help reverse the damage by publicly stating through the media and other public channels, that the school is not earmarked for closure.  This, he feels, would help increase enthusiasm and, in turn, enrolment numbers at the school.  It was also suggested that a promotional leaflet on the school be published and distributed throughout the parish.

A meeting will be held this Wednesday to facilitate a joint strategy, between all concerned parties, to the present objections and to prepare submissions to CCMS on the school’s future.