Ulster Unionist education spokesperson Danny Kinahan has responded to the decision by the Minister to approve the latest amalgamation proposal for three Catholic Maintained primary schools.
Danny Kinahan MLA said:
“Minister O’Dowd has announced that he is approving the amalgamation of St Joseph’s, St Mary’s, and Moneydarragh Primary Schools in South Down to create a new school on a single site accommodating around 200 pupils. This proposal has gone through all the statutory processes, and I am not in the position to directly challenge the rationale behind the decision.
“However, what I would challenge is the apparently exclusive nature of the decision. The Minister states, “This proposal aims to consolidate and deliver more sustainable Catholic maintained primary provision for children in the Lower Mourne area of County Down in the long term. Having considered all of the available evidence, I am satisfied that approval of the amalgamation is the best way forward.”
“That sounds fine and logical, but what happened to the Minister’s policy imperative that area planning- which is the basis for school reorganisation- must be on the basis of the entire school system being considered. Has the bigger picture been considered? Have the integrated and state controlled sectors in South Down been thought of when devising this plan?
“This is just the latest in a whole serious of amalgamations within the Catholic Maintained sector. These decisions may make perfect sense from the point of view of achieving a more sustainable standalone Catholic school system, but where is the supposed keynote Programme for Government policy of shared education? These questions are unfortunately seldom asked, and never answered.”