FOLLOWING the successful campaign to save St Mary’s Primary School in Fivemiletown from closure, a warm welcome was extended to Dr. Mark Browne, permanent pecretary at the Department of Education, and his departmental colleagues.

Having met with and listened to pupils throughout the school,  Dr. Browne heard from parents who expressed their concerns about the way in which decisions had been taken without full and proper engagement, and the impact that the proposal to close the school had on the children and wider community.

Welcoming the visit, chair of the Board of Governors, Mairaid Kelly, said: “We are really grateful to Dr Browne and his team for visiting St Mary’s and demonstrating their commitment to genuine engagement on a range of issues relating to Area Planning.

"We had a detailed discussion about a range of areas including governance and accountability, the need for more strategic planning in relation to small schools and the operation of the decision making processes.

We also took the opportunity to emphasise again the need for provision for children with special educational needs within rural areas, and to encourage the Department to work with the Education Authority to ensure the potential of small schools to provide nurturing support is fully recognised and capitalised upon.

Reflecting on the visit, Dr Mark Browne said: “I received a warm welcome at St Mary’s Primary School in Fivemiletown and enjoyed a tour of the school’s facilities.

"I met with staff and parents and had the pleasure to chat to the children about the favourite things they love to do in school.”

Commenting on the meeting, Colm Gildernew MLA said: “I would like to add my thanks to Dr Browne and his officials for taking the time to visit St Mary’s and hear the passion that pupils and parents alike expressed about the value of their school."