The Ulster Unionist Party says it has succeeded in getting its amendment passed during a debate on rural schools. The amendment strengthened the original motion by introducing a legislative presumption against the closure of rural schools as well as adding an additional duty to consider the impact a closure would have on the community, similar to the protections already in place in England and Scotland.
Education spokesperson Danny Kinahan, who is also Vice Chair of the education committee, said:
"Our amendment called on the Assembly to adopt the English and Scottish presumption against the closure of rural schools which is designed to give rural schools a clearer and more comprehensive consultation system than currently exists in Northern Ireland. Rural schools are central to the fabric of our local communities which are under great pressure due to the closure of local shops, post offices and police stations. In many cases the local school may well be all that is left to hold rural communities together."
Agriculture spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson said: "Rural schools are, and should remain, at the very heart of what it is to be a rural community. Area Planning strikes fear at the heart of rural communities - fear that their schools could be shut down or will remain unfit to accommodate the needs of families moving to the countryside."