THE Education Authority (EA) has formally indicated its intention to close Lisfearty Primary School at the end of the current school year.
Steadily declining enrolment numbers and an ever-increasing budgetary deficit have been cited as two of the main reasons for the proposal put forward by the Education Authority.
Lisfearty had been identified as presenting issues surrounding its future sustainability by the EA for a number of years.
And the body has now formally recommended closure of the small rural school, located in the Clonaneese area.
It is proposed that the school will formally close on 31st August, 2019, meaning the final day of school in the building will be at the end of June next year.
Admission numbers have dropped from 50 pupils to just 15 in the space of just nine years. The rate of decline in pupil numbers has sped up since the 2014/15 academic year, when 40 pupils were enrolled.
There was just one P1 pupil enrolled this year and one the year before, though there are now no pupils in this year’s P2 class.
The school has also confirmed to the EA that it understands no pupils will be coming into P1 in the next academic year.
And the EA has stated in its proposal to “discontinue” the school that the enrolment is well below the Sustainable Schools Policy threshold of 105 pupils.
And it was confirmed that the anticipated school deficit for the current school year is a 684 per cent increase on just two years ago.
In the 2016/17 school year, the school ran at a deficit of £30,464.
That increased last year to £151,894 and is expected to increase further still to £239,000 for the 2018/19 school year.
Following an inspection in 2015, the school had been found to have an overall performance level of ‘Good’. with achievements and standards and provision for learning classed as ‘Good’ and leadership and management marked as ‘Satisfactory’.
Four schools are listed as being located within a 10 mile radius of the school within the controlled sector – Walker Memorial PS, Castlecaulfield (4.9 miles away), Aughnacloy PS (5.1 miles), Richmond PS (7 miles) and Howard PS (9 miles).
Of those, Aughnacloy PS is the only one oversubscribed and the EA is, parallel to the plan to close Lisfearty PS, propising to increase permitted enrolment numbers at Aughnacloy PS.
A significant increase is proposed for the school, with approved enrolments for P1 to increase from 17 to 26 and the overall enrolment levels to be increased from 116 to 182 pupils.
Currently the school has 145 pupils, with that number expected to rise to 148 for the next school year.
Consultations for both schools are due to be open until the 30th January, 2019, with the Education Authority to make a final recommendation to the Department of Education thereafter.