27 schools face mergers and one new Irish facility planned under education reforms

The Belfast Telegraph reports that a new Irish language secondary school in Belfast has been mooted while 27 schools across Northern Ireland face the possibility of mergers due to sustainability issues, according to the Education Authority’s latest annual plan.

The EA’s 2018-19 Action Plan identifies challenges facing the entire education estate from nursery, primary, post-primary and special schools. The report includes 70 work streams to be taken forward over the next year, including the expansion of some schools..

All proposed actions will be subject to detailed consultation with each school’s Board of Governors, staff, parents, trade unions, community and political representatives, as well as other schools likely to be affected by any change and will explore all possible options.

Each proposal will be considered against “robust and verifiable information”, with the Minister (or the Permanent Secretary in the absence of a Minister) having the final sign-off.

The EA’s director of Education, John Collings, said the body faces many challenges in terms of ensuring school places across Northern Ireland, with some areas having too many and others too few.

“In many areas of Northern Ireland there are too many school places for the size of the population, while in other areas, there are not enough places,” he explained.

Meanwhile, the Ulster Farmers’ Union has voiced its concerns over the 27 schools named as having sustainability issues, pointing out that half of them are in rural areas.

UFU rural affairs chairperson, Joy Rollston, said: “If a rural school closes, it has a major negative impact on the dynamics of that community. Our schools are the hub of many rural communities. It is imperative to keep rural schools open.”

Read more 27 schools face mergers and one new Irish facility planned under education reforms

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