School principal in call to parents

Pupils from Milltown Primary School along with principal Miss Caroline Garrett and some of the shoeboxes the school are collected for the Operation Christmas Child Charity. INBL4412-MILLTOWNBOX
Pupils from Milltown Primary School along with principal Miss Caroline Garrett and some of the shoeboxes the school are collected for the Operation Christmas Child Charity. INBL4412-MILLTOWNBOX

ONE of the local principals whose school has been listed ‘at risk’ in the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) Draft Area Plan released last week, has urged parents to respond to the board’s consultation on the threatened closures.

Ms Caroline Garrett, principal of Milltown Primary School at Lenaderg outside Banbridge, said parents should read the relevant sections of the document and respond to the consultation which is available on the board’s website www.selb.org

And she stressed out of the six sustainability criteria highlighted, the only one not met by Milltown was the minimum threshold for enrolment.

The rural school currently has 45 pupils - which is marginally more than half of its unfilled places which sits at 42, making Milltown one of the worst effected schools in terms of empty desks.

However, Ms Garrett stressed enrolment from the lower end of the school was currently growing and she disagreed “with the implication in the document that a small school cannot provide a quality education”.

“Many parents have chosen to send their children to Milltown Primary School because it is a small school and smaller class sizes mean that pupils get more individual attention,” she said.

The head teacher also pointed out that her school enjoyed very strong parental support and would continue to serve the local community to “the same high standard”.

“The quality of education provided at Milltown Primary School was deemed ‘Very Good’ with ‘Outstanding’ awarded for Pastoral Care by the Education and Training Inspectorate at our recent inspection,” she added. “This compares more than favourably with other schools. Milltown Primary School will continue to serve the local community to the same high standard and it’s ‘business as usual’.”

In addition to Milltown PS, other schools in the locality listed as under threat include Gilford Primary School, which has an enrolment of 76 pupils - well below the minimum enrolment threshold of 105 pupils for a rural school. It has 97 unfilled places.

The remaining names on the list are St Colman’s PS, Dromore (60 unfilled places); St Mary’s PS, Dechomet (17); St Mary’s PS, Rathfriland (12); St Matthew’s PS, Magheramayo (28) and St Michael’s PS, Finnis (48).

As well as enrolment, the other criteria looked at were: Quality educational experience, Strong leadership and management, Accessibiliy and Strong links with the community.