The South Eastern Education and Library Board have come to the firm conclusion through a formal economic appraisal that the most efficient and effective solution, both financially and educationally, is relocate Priory College to the Redburn site, to demolish the current Priory building to make way for a new build primary school to facilitate an amalgamation of the existing Holywood and Redburn Primary Schools, and to finally construct a new build nursery unit on the site vacated by the current Holywood Primary School.
Funding of £8.7m for the new building was announced by the then Education Minister, Angela Smith, on 1 March 2006. However in January 2007, the Secretary of State indicated that capital projects that had already been approved needed to reviewed in light of the Bain Report. In February 2007, SEELB reconfirmed its support for the project in light of the Bain Report. In other words, the Board views the project as consistent with that report. In March, Maria Eagle confirmed that building works at 84 schools which had been put on hold could proceed, and stressed that remaining assessments could be completed within two months.
Speaking after the debate, Stephen Farry MLA, criticised the continued failure of the Education Minister and the Department to make the necessary decision to give the new campus for Priory the go-ahead.
Stephen Farry MLA stated:
“The present building is beyond repair. It is no longer fit and purpose. Paying high maintenance costs is not a good use for public money.
“It is now almost six months on from the time when these assessments on a wide range of new schools should have been concluded, but Priory Integrated College is still awaiting the go ahead.
“A significant reorganisation of educational provision in Holywood is on the agenda, whereby schools can be placed on a fully sustainable basis. The new build campus for Priory Integrated College must be the first step in this reorganisation.
” Priory College has done everything that has and could be possibly asked of them. As an integrated school, it has the widest possible appeal to the community. I firmly believe that integrated schools are the most sustainable form of education, both financially and economically, and offer the most rounded education to students to the benefit of wider society.
“It is fully subscribed. Furthermore, the neighbouring post-primary integrated schools, namely Lagan College and Strangford Integrated College are themselves over-subscribed too. The school is not only sustainable, but also critical to offering every child in the North Down and East Belfast area the opportunity to avail of integrated post-primary education.
“As an all-ability, delivers excellent results academically. It makes valuable contribution to the community through sport, the arts, community and charity work.
“The school has entered into collaboration with a wide range of local schools, offering the widest possible access to the curriculum
“The Bain Report placed very heavy emphasis on sharing within and between schools, collaboration between schools, and area planning. It is clear that Priory is ticking all the boxes in this regard.
“Holywood is actually well-ahead of the curve on innovation/rationalisation. The community is hungry to move ahead with the necessary rationalisation. A ready solution for area planning is being presented to the Minister on a plate.
” Priory College has flourished despite the poor building. It is sustainable in its own terms. The overall educational reform
“I have asked the Minister what further information or evidence from the school she requires to take a decision. I have the asked the Minister to give a timetable for when a final decision can be taken.
“The continued refusal of the Minister to make a decision is a source of great frustration right across North Down.”