Ford Meets Minister on Antrim Schools

AN Alliance delegation, David Ford MLA and Newtownabbey Councillor Lynn Frazer, has met Minister of Education Barry Gardiner to discuss the future of secondary schools in Antrim. Mr Ford has welcomed the promise by the Minister to examine any development proposals in the light of the overall pattern of post-primary schools in the area.

The current crisis has arisen because NEELB is proposing to close Massereene College and expand Parkhall College, at the same time as CCMS is having to consider falling rolls at St Malachy”s High School and NICIE is working with a group of parents interested in setting up an integrated post-primary school.

Mr Ford wrote to the Minister asking him to bring together all three sectors to produce a strategic plan.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Ford said: “The Minister did not believe that he had the powers to insist on all three sectors – controlled, maintained and integrated – working together on a strategic plan. We pointed out that he had the power over the cheque book which ultimately affected all schools in Northern Ireland.

“However, Mr Gardiner did agree that it would be unreasonable to not ensure that all future plans for schools in South Antrim took account of developments in other schools. He undertook that his officials would examine the impacts on all the children of Antrim of any proposals coming forward to him.

“I believe that this is good news for Antrim students and future students. It is also good news for NI generally if it will ensure better use of public resources.

“He should also encourage the Board, CCMS and NICIE to work together, to ensure that their plans co-ordinate, as it seems likely that the Department will ask hard questions if they publish development proposals but have not examined the impact on other sectors.”

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