In his statement to the Assembly, on 26 September 2011, the Minister, John O’Dowd MLA, set out an urgent programme of actions to ensure that in the future we have in place a pattern of education provision which delivers the high quality education future generations deserve - a system which delivers educational excellence for all.
The Minister made it clear that, against the backdrop of an extremely challenging financial landscape in the coming years, progress on reshaping the structure and pattern of education provision cannot be delayed. This work is at the core of the raising standards agenda which can only be delivered efficiently and effectively through a network of sustainable schools.
The Minister commissioned the Education and Library Boards (ELB), in conjunction with the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) and other school sectors, to lead a process of collective, strategic planning i.e. Area Planning. The involvement of the ELBs, supported by CCMS, in leading this exercise reflects the respective (and linked) statutory responsibilities of the Boards and CCMS. This exercise will be fundamentally based on the Sustainable Schools Policy.
The Area Planning process will result in an effectively planned, sustainable and affordable pattern of schools. This will ensure that we have a network of viable and sustainable schools that are of the right type, the right size, located in the right place and have a focus on raising standards.
As a precursor and to inform the wider area approach to planning, the ELBs and CCMS, working in close conjunction with the other sectors, were tasked with undertaking a viability audit of all schools to identify those schools which are evidencing stress now in relation to sustainable enrolment levels, delivery of quality education and financial viability. The viability audit identified those schools where action will need to be taken in the short term to protect the education of pupils.
The Belfast Education and Library Board recognises that the viability audit process is not a static but a dynamic process which will continue to be updated in the light of new information as the area planning process progresses.
The Viability Audit completed by the Belfast Education and Library Board in association with the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools is available by clicking the link above. Additional information on the Terms of Reference for the Viability Audit and Area Planning is available by clicking on the link below. Also below is the Minister's full speech to the Assembly on 26 September 2011.