PARENTS of St Mary’s High School, Brollagh are in the process of mounting a legal challenge against the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) latest closure proposal.
Members of St Mary’s Parents Action Group believe they have identified seven breaches in legislation affecting the current two-month consultation process.
And as a result, they have written to the Education Secretary, Derek Baker, as well as the CCMS calling for a halt to the process.
This is the third time the rural school’s future has been placed under threat.
In 2014, the then Education Minister John O’Dowd decided not to agree to the school’s closure and called for CCMS and the Education Authority to bring forward a pilot scheme which would allow Brollagh to work with schools on the other side of the border.
But having acquired a series of documents via Freedom of Information requests detailing communication between CCMS and the Department of Education, the Action Group learned that senior officials in CCMS were of the view that the cross-border option wasn’t viable because they questioned the quality of education that would have been produced.
During a meeting called by the Action Group last week, attended by over 160 people, the possibility to exploring the cross border initiative was discussed again, as well as other alternatives for St Mary’s future, including shared education, integrated education or satellite education.
“We cannot avoid the fact that we may not be successful in our legal challenge,” said Jane Weir, a member of the Action Group, “During the meeting we reminded people that objections to the proposal have got to be in by November 20. 
“So yes, we want to put all those objections forward, of which we have quite a few, but we also want to show that we are willing to change and develop as a school.”
A representative from NICIE (Council for Integrated Education Northern Ireland) attended the meeting to give a presentation on integrated education.
Presentations were also given on shared and satellite education.
When a vote was called to consider what would be the most beneficial alternative for the St Mary’s community, integrated education and the possibility of exploring the cross border initiative further were the preferred options.
“That would be quite a significant move away from being a CCMS managed school,” said Ms. Weir.
“I felt that was a brave step by everyone at the meeting, to vote to explore something completely new. And not just because it might save the school, because there is a genuine interest in having a cross-community school here, to be attended by everyone.”
The Action Group has sought a meeting the Mr. Baker regarding the legislation breaches they have identified.
“We believe that the implications of not adhering to  this legislation invalidates the consultation process,” said Ms. Weir, “The legislation allows the public to have sight of the full facts on which they can base their objections, without these, the public are only provided with a partial picture of the school’s  situation and the children are not fully represented. 
“In compiling their proposal document, the CCMS have not completed a rural needs impact assessment or rural proofing assessment. 
“They have not completed an equality impact assessment or a human rights impact assessment. They have failed to consult or engage with the children and young people effected by their proposal. 
“Alarmingly there are only 20 days left of this two month consultation process and no arrangements have been made by the Education Authority to consult the children and young people effected by this proposal under Article 75 Northern Ireland Order and Article 12 UNCRC.”
Fermanagh and Omagh District councillors meanwhile have demanded an urgent meeting with the CCMS and the Education Authority to address officials on the alleged breaches.