St Mary’s High School in Brollagh, Co Fermanagh has been without a full-time, permanent head for years.
It has been an uncertain time for the Catholic post-primary school. It had been earmarked for closure due to low pupil numbers but this plan was rejected in favour of exploring a possible cross-border solution.
Governors are now seeking to appoint a principal, but only on a temporary basis pending the outcome of a feasibility study into the development of a pilot cross-border collaborative scheme.
Accessibility has always been a major issue for children. If the school shut down, pupils would be expected to travel to Enniskillen. While the school has an Enniskillen postcode, it is closer to Co Donegal than Fermanagh’s county town.
St Mary’s has had an internal teacher acting up as head on two separate occasions and at least two other temporary appointments, secondments from outside. Previous attempts to fill the post permanently were unsuccessful. In the latest job advertisement, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) is offering a salary of between £50,000 and £59,000 for the one-year-long post. It says it will also consider those who apply on a secondment basis.
It is understood that the reason for the short-term contract is due to issues the school faces trying to recruit. Few are prepared to gamble on a permanent move when area-based planning considerations continue to impact on the school.
CCMS has already considered two potential cross-border models. It rejected a partnership model between schools North and South because each component school would have to be sustainable in its own right.
A business case said St Mary’s was not viable and sustainable, which “provides the basis for ruling out the potential for a cross-border partnership solution”.
While CCMS also says it supports the potential transfer of pupils at year 8 into post-primary schools in the Republic of Ireland, such a model will require discussion at a cross-border level.