‘Board IS being challenged over primary school plans’

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There would be no prospect of a new Dromore primary school had politicians and school representatives not worked together to achieve it.

That was part of Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson’s response to a Dromore woman who fears no-one is willing to challenge the Southern Education and Library Board on plans for a 25-class base primary school instead of the 28-classes first envisaged.

Lisa Saunders welcomed Mr Donaldson’s recent support, as reported in The Leader, for a 28-class base primary school, but was confused, she said, by the reasoning behind the SELB’s decison to tender for a 25 class base school.

She said, “According to the SELB the current Primary School population in the town and the current levels of growth only justify in financial terms the construction of a 25-class base Primary School. However, findings within the Draft Area Plan for Primary Provision, produced by the SELB, do not support this decision.”

Mrs Saunders said the plan’s own figures clearly showed a continued increase of pupils enrolling at the primary school.

She noted too that the plan stated there were currently a total of 808 unfilled places in schools in the Banbridge Council Area and a projected long-term need to reduce the number of unfilled places in the Banbridge Council area.

“I am concerned that the decision to reduce three actual classes for the new primary school is to support the SELB’s ‘projected long-term need to reduce the number of unfilled places in the Banbridge council area’,” she said. “By reducing the capacity of the new Dromore Central primary school the SELB is removing parental choice for primary provision within the catchment area for Dromore Central PS. This decision by the SELB should be challenged but it appears that no one is willing to do that.”

Mr Donaldson, meanwhile, said he and other elected representatives shared many of Mrs Saunders’ concerns; they had challenged, and continued to challenge the SELB in meetings held to discuss the school on the need to have a 28-class base.

“I am disappointed,” he added, “that Mrs Saunders hasn’t taken up my offer in writing to meet with her to discuss her valid concerns about the primary school and other local issues. She will know from past experience that I am always happy to follow up on issues that are raised with me.” The Leader approached the SELB for a response to Mrs Saunders concerns but at time of going to press none was forthcoming.