Save Straid Primary School: Parents campaign to protect 190-year-old school from closure

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Parents of students at a rural Co Antrim school have come together to campaign to keep its doors open.

Straid Primary School has been at the heart of village life for over 190 years and is the main place of socialization for young children in the region.

In May, the Education Authority launched a consultation with parents, teachers and governors on the future of Straid Primary School, near Ballyclare, and proposed its closure from September 1, 2023.

But a group of parents and members of the wider community have launched a petition to overturn the decision, calling it “cut-throat” and “cruel.”

Speaking to Belfast Live, Harriet Martin, a mother of three, explained why she was involved in the campaign to save the school.

Her daughter is currently a P3 student at Straid PS and she had planned to enroll her two youngest children there in the coming years.

“We struggled to get her into a nursery and considered taking a home schooling route with her, due to pretty severe separation anxiety,” Harriet said.

“We found Straid and she just was a different kid. She loves it, the school is just great, so accommodating and supportive. I have two more that I want to go to Straid with too, he doesn’t. there is simply nowhere else in the area that can offer what they do.

“We are all trying to fight as parents, and also as a community because it is a very small village and without a school the children do not have much to keep them together.

“There is a cafe and pizzeria, horse riding and a local farm shop, but the school is the center of the village. It has been around for almost 200 years, so many people who live there have connections too. with her.”

Regarding the closure of the primary school, a spokesperson for the Education Authority said: “The Case for Change describes the rationale and context for development proposal # 623: the school Straid Primary will cease to exist on August 31, 2023, or as soon as possible thereafter. . “

The reasons for this, as stated in the School Authority’s Case for Change, include low enrollment and smaller class numbers, which makes teaching expensive and difficult from a perspective. logistics.

But Harriet argues that the school, which currently has 53 students, has gradually increased enrollment in recent years, as it had 45 students in the 2019-20 school year.

She argues that rural schools are needed for a multitude of reasons and should not be overlooked due to the low numbers.

“Every child has different needs. Some do well in big schools, but others don’t,” Harriet continued.

“Just because these schools don’t have so much money and aren’t as financially viable doesn’t mean they need to be closed. There is something that needs to be done to protect them.

“In other parts of the UK they have protective status over their rural schools and they are not allowed to be closed, but unfortunately we don’t have that in Northern Ireland. There will be a lot more closures , we need legislation implemented to protect these schools.

You can sign the group’s petition by clicking here, and any objections to the school closing can be emailed to [email protected]

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