21/02/2003

Union meeting to vote on future of rural schools

The leader of the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) is to address the NAS/UWT union on Friday night over the exodus of farm workers that is threatening the future of a number of rural schools across Northern Ireland.

John Gilliland will take part in the debate which aims to secure the future of rural schools in Northern Ireland because of a dwindling farming community.

Members will be asked to vote on a plan which would safeguard rural schools by uniting clusters of them under a single board of governors and one principal.

The teachers' union says that would give pupils access to a larger number of teachers offering a wider range of interests.

More than 1,300 farm businesses in Northern Ireland closed between June 2001 and June 2002 as average farm income fell to £88 a week following the outbreak of foot and mouth disease across Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

In the four years up to last year, the UFU said about a tenth of their members had left the industry because of the problems which are affecting all agricultural sectors.

(MB)

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