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Low numbers putting Naíscoil in Castlederg at risk

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CASTLEDERG’S only Irish language school is facing closure because of a lack of uptake by parents.
 
Naíscoil Na Deirge currently provides early years education to 11 pupils, eight of whom are funded under the government’s PEGS Programme. 
 
But with only three children signed up for next year, the school will not be entitled to the funding, which is crucial to its survival.
Maolíosa McHugh is chair of the Naíscoil Na Deirge Committee. He said that unless more parents opted to send their children to the school for the 2017/18 year, it would almost certainly be forced to close its doors. 
 
The Sinn Féin councillor said, “If we don’t get enough pupils we will need to raise in the region of about £20,000 to sustain the school. 
 
“Every year since the school opened we have managed to raise funds through the support of the parents who have used the school and the local people who have supported our monthly draw that ensures we can pay our bills.
 
“But the amount we would need without the help of the PEGS Programme would probably be beyond us.”
 
Naíscoil Na Deirge has repeatedly been praised by the North’s education authorities for the level of learning it provides.
But as of last month only three pupils were on the register for the next school year, well short of the eight required.
 
Maolíosa McHugh said that without reaching the minimum intake, it looked “very likely” that Naíscoil Na Deirge would have to close. And the chances of it ever being resurrected again were not good, he admitted.
 
“The likelihood of us ever re-establishing a naíscoil in this area would be very slim,” Cllr McHugh said.
 
“It is unfortunate that at a time when issues around the Irish language have such a high profile, we don’t seem to be able to attract the necessary applications.”
 
Discussions have taken place in the past with other local primary schools about possibly establishing an Irish language unit within them. 
 
With that idea deemed non-viable, the future of Naíscoil Na Deirge is looking increasingly uncertain.
 
But Maolíosa McHugh said there was still time for parents to reconsider where they intend to send their children next year.
 
“I would ask any parent to consider Naíscoil Na Deirge because not only are you introducing your child to a second language, but you are reassured of childcare provision of the highest standard, something which is backed up by reports from both the Department of Education and the Western Health and Social Services Board. So much work has gone into keeping the school open, even down to things as simple as cutting the grass. It would be disappointing if it did have to close and I do think a community is poorer when you don’t have this type of provision,” Cllr McHugh said.
 
Any parent interested in sending their child to Naíscoil Na Deirge can contact Maolíosa McHugh on 07724484840.
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