CULLYCAPLE Primary School is to close at the end of June - after 170 years
The North Eastern Education and Library Board recommended the closure of the school at a meeting last week.
Principal, Fred Corscadden, described the news as “the end of a long era,” and said that down through the years generations of local families have attended the Mullaghinch Road school.
Mr Corscadden, who has been headmaster for 17 years, said that the confirmation of closure was “hard to swallow” even though he knew it was coming.
“It is difficult. The children are sad and the staff are sad.
“We have just returned from a school trip to Woodhall in Kilrea and to go from the high drama of that to this news it is very difficult.
“Many of the children just don’t understand what is going on.
“This wee school has so much history.
“It was first opened 170 years ago by local woman Mary Barkley, who opened the girls-only school in 1833,” told Fred.
“Down through the years the school thrived with generations of rural families sending their children to be educated here at Cullycapple.
“In more recent times numbers have been decreasing, and we now only have 20 pupils.”
The principal blames falling birth rates and the school’s rural location for its decline.
Local MLA Adrian McQuillan has close links with the school.
He said that the closure confirmation brought a “lump to his throat.”
Adrian’s mother was a past pupil and he has a niece who is a current pupil.
“It’s a sad day for the Aghadowey area.
“We all knew it was coming, but to see it written in black and white makes it all seem so realistic,
“My mother went to school at Cullycapple, I had a nephew that went there and my neice is still there - it has a sentimental value to many in the area.”
The DUP councillor who also sits on the committee of Garvagh Museum hopes that artefacts from the school will be made available by the Education Board to put on display at the Museum.
Speaking about provision for Cullycapple pupils for the new September term, councillor McQuillan: “ I hope that the Board makes every effort to inform the parents of the options open to them.
“ I know that many pupils will be going to Garvagh, Culcrow and Kilrea Primary Schools - parents need to be kept informed transport arrangements well in advance,” he said.
Despite the sad news Mr Coscadden says that they are making every effort to mark the school’s 170th anniversary.
“We are hosting an Open Day on Saturday, March 23 for the anniversary. We want as many former pupils as possible to come back.
“We’ve been told about a 90-year-old lady in Garvagh who is a former pupil, we think that she’s the oldest, we hope that others come along with old photos and memories.”
A thanksgiving service will also be held to mark the anniversary at Aghadowey Presbyterian Church on Sunday, March 24.
Everyone associated with the school will be made welcome.