Transport blow for rural school

Written by: Simon Doyle | Published:

A rural secondary school in Northern Ireland has suffered a fresh blow after pupils had their free transport cancelled.

St Mary’s High School in Brollagh, Co Fermanagh, has been battling to remain open for years.

It had been proposed that it close down in 2015 as its pupil numbers fell well below the 500 needed to be considered viable. However, then education minister John O’Dowd went against his advisors by deciding it should remain open.

Accessibility is a major issue for children. If St Mary’s was to close, pupils would have to travel to schools in Enniskillen, even though the school is less than two miles from Donegal, on the other side of the Irish border.

There have been previous attempts at finding a cross-border solution, but these have all failed. A second proposal to shut the school this year was withdrawn.
Parents fighting to save it have since said they support joining the integrated sector. No Catholic school has ever transformed to integrated status.

Now, the North’s Education Authority (EA) has told 17 pupils they can no longer receive free buses. The EA says the school bus route is being reorganised for operational reasons. Only pupils who live more than three miles from their nearest suitable school are eligible for free transport. Concessionary transport for those living closer is now no longer available as the EA says there are no spare seats.

St Mary’s rural location means walking is dangerous. The winding rural road to the school has a 60mph speed limit and there are no footpaths and streets lights.

The EA says it will conduct an assessment of the walking route. However, this cannot take place until normal school time traffic patterns are in place.


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