The Alliance pair were speaking today (Tuesday) during an adjournment debate on primary education provision in East Belfast, which followed Education Minister John O’Dowd’s announcement the day before of £4.9 million of funding for Victoria Park Primary School.
However, the MLAs expressed their disappointment that another local school, Strandtown Primary, had not been included in the education minister’s package of funding.
“It is one of Northern Ireland’s largest primary schools and while work has been carried out on it over the years, unfortunately the classrooms are no longer fit for purpose and indeed the school was previously assessed as needing a new build,” said Mrs Cochrane.
“Strandtown is also unique in Belfast in that it follows the infant/junior model -children attend feeder schools for P1-P3 and then move on to Strandtown to complete their primary years. The minister has told us future capital decisions will be based on educational need.
“Availability audit has been carried out on the schools against the department’s criteria and I can see no reference made to issues with the infant/junior model, which had previously been described as a problem. I would like the minister to clarify if it remains an issue and if so, I would welcome a debate on the Strandtown infant/junior experience.”
Mr Lyttle told the chamber it had been “another year of academic uncertainty” for schools in East Belfast.
“In2009, then-Education Minister Caitriona Ruane commissioned a capital review exercise but that is now obsolete and many schools in East Belfast have been left in limbo, and wondering if, when and how much-needed work will be carried out at their school.
“An area-based planning system is a golden opportunity to enhance, improve and explore new forms of education provision in East Belfast. Cross-sectoral and cross-age options need to be fully explored in order to make the most of facilities and increase sharing.
“It is of vital importance schools are kept fully informed of and included in the area planning process because they are the people on the front line, and so their expertise and insight must be valued as we attempt to deliver the best education and outcomes for children in East Belfast.”