Alliance will continue fight for Priory new build

Alliance North Down MLA Stephen Farry and Holywood Councillor Andrew Muir have stressed their continued commitment to secure a new build of Priory Integrated College, after the Education Minister again missed an opportunity to give certainty on the future of the school during his latest Assembly statement on secondary education in the Greater Belfast area.

The Education Minister announced plans to approve a modified enrolment number of 500, with a year eight admissions number of 100 – a move that leaves Priory still capped below the Sustainable Schools level for an 11-18 school.

Stephen Farry MLA said: “While I welcome the increase in the enrolment threshold for years 8-12 to 500, it is disappointing that the Minister has not gone further and given the school a clear commitment to rebuild.

“There is very significant demand for integrated education in the community, including across North Down and East Belfast. Priory College serves as the only integrated secondary option for large parts of North Down and East Belfast and it should be given the right tools to enable it to grow and develop further.

“It is really disappointing that as other schools in the area have received new school builds, Priory is still waiting on a much-needed new build that was originally approved in 2008.

Notwithstanding the strong support for the integrated option, Priory will be at a disadvantage when it is effectively competing with other schools with better and more modern facilities.

Councillor Muir, who is also Mayor of North Down, added: “The rebuild of Priory College was actually approved back in 2008 by then Education Minister Caitriona Ruane, before being caught up in wider reviews. It is now 2014 and nothing has changed, except the increasing number of students who have passed through the current old school buildings.

“While today’s announcement on pupil numbers is welcome, there is a fear that meeting this threshold will only be a prelude to a further requirement to a second stage test to meet in the future.

“I am most confident that this is a sustainable school that meets all of the policy criteria looking to the future. It is not fair that goal posts seem to be constantly changing.”

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