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SOS: Clady community in bid to save school

TODAY witnessed a huge community turnout in support of the campaign against the recommended closure of St Michael’s P.S., Clady.

The turnout, indicative of the tenacious community spirit within the small rural community, included members of the public, councillors, teachers and principals.

The fear is that the closure would have a detrimental effect on the rural community and would initiate the demise of Clady’s identity as a community.

Front Row Mrs Pat Lamph, Ms Genevieve McMullan (Classroom Assistants)
Back Row Left to right Mr Paul Hart (Principal), Mr Cathal Boyal Sinn Fein MLA, Miss Colette Conlon (Teacher), Mrs Mary McLeod (SEN Teacher) Mr Dominic Bradly (SDLP MLA), Miss Rosaleen Toner (Teacher), Miss Eimear Mallon. Photo by John Merry

Mickey Savage, Chairman of the Steering Group leading the campaign has said that “St Michael’s P.S. is an integral part of our small rural community and we will strenuously campaign to ensure it remains open.  On behalf of the Steering group, I would like to thank all those in the local community for supporting our campaign and for turning up on such a cold morning.

He added: “We unequivocally oppose all proposals to close St Michael’s P.S, Clady and we will arduously campaign to keep it open for future generations. ”

Paul Hart, Principal of St Michael’s P.S said: “On behalf of the teaching and non-teaching staff of St Michael’s PS, Clady, we would like to thank all those who have turned up this morning to support the campaign against the closure of St Michael’s P.S.  Our parents, past parents, pupils and past pupils are totally opposed to the proposals to consult on the potential closure of the school.

“Also, we would like to thank those parents who want their children to enrol in our school next year and in subsequent years.  We will endeavour to provide the excellent standard of education that generations have received and our community has endorsed this for future generations.  Our school is regarded as the heartbeat of our community and binds all the strands of Clady together.”

When asked for their views on the proposed closure of St Michael’s P.S., a current pupil commented “I have younger siblings at this school and I know not only would they be devastated to leave their friends, but the effects that this would have on our home life would be tremendous.”

Joseph McGleenan, Chairman of Board Of Governors for St Michael’s PS, Clady and Fr Peter Kerr PP, Trustee Governor have said that the Board of Governors  strongly oppose the CCMS proposals concerning St Michael’s P.S. Clady.  They are unhappy with the recommendations and will be making a studied response before April, 29.

Other community groups stand strong in their support of the campaign to keep the doors of St Michael’s PS open.

Karen Savage, Secretary for Sean South Football Club voiced support for the campaign “The committee, players and members of Clady GFC Clady wish to express their deep concern over the proposed closure of St Michael’s School in Clady. We have a very close working relationship with the school.  They have full use of our community hall and football field whenever they request.  Our community is stunned at this news.”

Clady Tiny Tots Playgroup are extremely concerned with the proposal to close St Michael’s P.S as they have a very strong and close relationship with the primary school. Bronagh Beagan, Playgroup Leader Clady Tiny Tots has said: “The closure of Clady Primary School would be devastating, and would have a knock on effect on our Pre-school.

“We have 40 children enrolled this year, and a large majority will be moving to St. Michaels next year. If it were to close, our community would be damaged, children would be displaced and jobs would be lost.”

Ms Pat McGuckian, Principal of St Patrick’s High School said that her school “is extremely concerned to learn of the possible closure of one of our valued partner schools.

The vision of St Patrick’s is to provide excellence, every day for every child from 3-19 years.

The link with St Michael’s Primary School has afforded opportunities for staff to develop links with the community in Clady and to improve outcomes in St Patrick’s by learning from the excellent practice in this school. The Minister for Education (John O’Dowd) attended a meeting of our Derrynoose, Killcluney and Tynan Learning Community on December 20, 2012 and identified the link with our partner primaries as a model of transition for all schools to follow.

“Pupils in St Michael’s experience a first-class education, and a seamless transition to post-primary school without the stress and burden of high stakes testing at eleven. Our model of partnership between the primaries and post-primary school reflects the vision of both the Irish Bishops and the Department of Education. We know of the strong parental support St Michael’s enjoys and we hope that the school can be saved.”

Cllr Sharon Haughey-Grimley, Lord Mayor of Armagh and past pupil of Clady school was unable to attend the protest photo due a medical appointment but sent her full support stating: “The people of Clady have all come together to fight to save our school.  This is about securing the excellent education provision provided by St Michael’s Primary School for future generations of children and young people in Clady.  It’s about saving our school and protecting our rural community.  Together we stand strong to fight these recommendations and to tell the Minister of Education how important our school is to the rural community.”

Local MLA’s have also shown their strong support for the campaign. SDLP MLA Dominic O’Brolchain said: “The SDLP fully supports the campaign to retain St Michael’s.  The school is an integral part of the Clady community and is held in high esteem by all the parents as it delivers a first class education to all its pupils.  The attendance here today is a clear indication of the value the community places on their school.”

Cathal Boylan, Sinn Fein MLA stated” “Today saw the coming together of a strong rural community in a campaign to save their school, at the heart of this campaign is the education of their children and the future sustainability and identity of Clady as a community. I fully support the steering group and the people of Clady in their fight to save their school.”

A Public Forum Meeting with the CCMS will be held on Tuesday, April 9 at 7pm in Clady Community Club.  The Steering Group invite the very important continued support from the community, staff, parents, community groups, rural development groups, MLAs, councillors and out Lord Mayor.

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