Talks between DARD and DE on rural schools encouraging

Wednesday, 19 June, 2013

Ulster Farmers’ Union Deputy President Barclay Bell has said that the meeting between Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill and Education Minister John O’Dowd to discuss rural schools is encouraging. A number of rural schools have come under threat in recent months following the publication of the Education Department’s draft strategic area plans for the primary sector.

Barclay Bell said; “I welcome the news that the Education Minister and Agriculture Minister have met to discuss the important issue of rural schools. It is encouraging that the Ministers appear to be on the same page and to his credit Minister O’Dowd seems to be taking the Education Department’s commitments in the Rural White Paper seriously.

“Children in rural areas deserve as good an education as their urban counterparts but schools in rural communities usually provide much more than just a place for education. Often these schools are at the heart of the rural community, providing a place for social gatherings, local meetings, community recreation, and so much more. The overall wellbeing of rural children is another major concern, and I am worried about the impact school closures will have on it. I will continue to push both the Education Minister and the Agriculture Minister to ensure that all options are explored before any closures takes place. These schools already offer so much to their communities and with some creative thinking there is no reason why any of these schools should be closed.”

The UFU will be attending the NI Assembly’s Education Committee meeting tonight to continue to highlight the issue of rural schools, briefing them on the UFU position and reiterating the important role schools can play in the rural community.