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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 February 2006, 19:18 GMT
City schools face closure threat
Mount Gilbert Community College may have to close
A number of schools across Belfast are expected to close because pupil numbers are at an all-time low.

The principal of one school involved has said that he cannot continue to fight against falling numbers and a shrinking budget.

John Crossan of Mount Gilbert Community College, Shankill Road, said he was admitting defeat in the numbers game.

Mount Gilbert has 120 pupils. It can take in 140 new pupils annually, but only had 12 new pupils this year.

The school is run by the Belfast Education and Library Board and members have recommended its closure.

Mr Crossan has fought to reduce his 200,000 deficit. Some staff have left the school and he now teaches classes in order to save money.

"The demographic trends are downward, unfortunately, throughout the city and the province," he said.

"At the moment, we seem to have reached a stage where we have had to go to the education and library board and explain that numbers are declining."

John Crossan
John Crossan said he was admitting defeat in the numbers game

Other schools are also vulnerable.

The newly-built Balmoral High could take 100 pupils, but only got 24 this year.

Castle High in north Belfast is allowed an intake of 110, but only attracted 22 first year pupils.

In west Belfast, Christian Brothers' School could have taken 150 pupils, but ended up with less than half that number.

St Gabriel's School in north Belfast is allowed a maximum of 84 pupils, but only got a quarter of that number.

Orangefield High in the east of the city was allowed 145 pupils, but only managed to recruit 25 pupils this year.

By April, the Belfast board will announce how it is to deal with surplus places.

Meanwhile, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) is also looking at new ideas for dealing with ever decreasing numbers.

Jim Clarke, CCMS, said: "In Belfast alone, the 11 to 17 age group is going to drop by 35% between 2002 and 2015.

"It is inevitable that there will be some form of reorganisation and rationalisation," he said.

"I would hope that would be accompanied by a significant new-build programme in post-primary education."

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