Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

End of an era for Anamar School

Parents, pupils and staff at Anamar Primary School in Crossmaglen have been left bitterly disappointed at the news that it will close at the end of this school year.

Although the fate of the rural school has hung in the balance for several years now – with a steady decline in enrolment numbers cited as the reason for closure plans – last week’s announcement that the much-loved school will close its doors for the final time at the end of June has come as a huge blow.

In the absence of a Stormont Executive, senior civil servants took the decision to close the border school along with Tullycarnet PS in Belfast.  The Department of Education’s permanent secretary Derek Baker rubber-stamped the proposals following the the conclusion of a consultation period which ran until March this year.

“Any decision to close a school is an exceptionally significant issue which merits careful consideration,” Mr Baker said.

“However, in light of the clearly expressed views, decline in numbers which undermines the school’s viability, educational experience for pupils and availability of capacity in neighbouring primary schools, I accept the recommendations.” Just 26 of Anamar’s 91 places were filled in the last school year.

The school, located at the very edge of Upper Creggan Parish, has served families from the parishes of both Upper and Lower Creggan for 175 years, with generations of local families educated there.It’s future has been under threat for many years, with a proposal to close the school back in 2009 overturned by a dedicated campaign supported by the local community.  The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) also proposed closing the school in August 2016, subject to the outcome of a public consultation period with the final decision on the school’s future resting with then Education Minister, John O’Dowd.

Back then, the CCMS provided assurances that adequate provisions would be put in place for the pupils of Anamar Primary School.

To absorb pupil numbers from Anamar, St. Patrick’s PS in Crossmaglen has been permitted to increase its admissions in September from 50 pupils to 68 and admissions at Clonalig PS in Culloville have increased to 29 from 24.

Concerned parent, Fiona McCabe, who has three children at Anamar, said everyone involved with the school is “so disappointed” at the closure plans.   Her sons Malachy, Cathal and Peadar, who are in P7, P5 and P3 respectively, now face the challenge of settling into a new school away from many of their friends.

With older son Malachy heading to secondary school in September,  Fiona says Cathal and Peadar must now get used to bigger class numbers in their new school, St. Patrick’s PS in Crossmaglen, and with being separated from friends they have been with since starting school.

“We got the letter from CCMS informing us of the closure on 23rd May and we basically had to sort ourselves out as to where our children would go,” says Fiona.

“We’ve had no help with applications and there’s been no transition plan to the new schools.

“Of course, we’re all so disappointed at the closure of the school and it will be a huge adjustment for the children going to a new school in the middle of their primary education.  I’ve had 5 kids go through Anamar so it really feels like the end of an era.”

Fiona told us her children are “sad and nervous” about moving schools and being split up from their friends, some of whom will now attend other local primary schools including Cullyhanna, Clonalig and Carrickrovaddy.

Staff, parents and pupils are now preparing for an emotional farewell to Anamar, with plans underway for a special celebration of the school in its final week at the end of this month.  Former staff and pupils past and present are expected to attend to bid goodbye to the stalwart primary school which has been part of local history and education in Crossmaglen for generations.