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DOWNLOAD : Belfast Education & Library Board’s Area Plan for Post Primary Provision

In his statement to the Assembly on 26 September 2011, the Minister, John O’Dowd MLA, set out a programme of actions to ensure that in the future we have a pattern of education provision which delivers the high quality education future generations deserve - a system which delivers educational excellence for all.

The Minister commissioned the Education and Library Boards (ELB), (in conjunction with the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) and others), to lead a process of collective strategic planning ie 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 is based on the Sustainable Schools Policy.

The first stage in this process was the publication of the viability audits for all primary and post-primary schools in the Belfast Education and Library Board area in February 2012. These viability audits identified those schools evidencing stress in relation to sustainable enrolment levels, delivery of quality education and financial viability.

The second stage of this process is the preparation of a draft Area Plan for post primary provision in the board area. This draft Area Plan is available by clicking the 'DOWNLOAD' link above.

This draft Area Plan aims to facilitate the development of viable and sustainable schools which can effectively deliver the statutory curriculum at Key Stage 3 and the entitlement framework at Key Stage 4 and post 16, as well as addressing educational underachievement in Belfast.

The Department’s terms of reference were:

“In delivering an Area Plan the boards, working with CCMS and engaging extensively with other school sectors, should take account of the guidance issued by the Department and seek to fulfil the following aims/objectives to:

  • - ensure a network of sustainable schools, within reasonable travelling distance for pupils and capable of delivering effectively the revised curriculum and, in post-primary schools, the entitlement framework;
  • - identify and meet the needs of all children and young people in the area;
  • - enhance the quality of provision and raise standards;
  • - reduce the number of surplus places;
  • - reduce duplication of provision;
  • - identify realistic, innovative and creative solutions to address need, including opportunities for shared schooling on a cross sectoral basis;
  • - maximise the use and sharing of the existing schools estate;
  • - identify potential for co-location of mainstream and special schools;
  • - take full account of appropriate and relevant FE sector provision for 14-19 year olds; and
  • - explore opportunities for cross border planning.”

The options and proposals set out in the board’s Area Plan are a first step towards these aims and objectives.

This consultation is about whether the proposed approach will take us in the right direction. The plan will be the subject of public consultation until 26 October 2012. On-line response facilities will be available from September. I would ask you to read the plan and think about the extent to which it:

  • - shows a clear way forward for post-primary education provision in Belfast;
  • - will lead to a network of sustainable schools which can:
  •             - meet the needs of all pupils in the longer term;
  •             - deliver the statutory curriculum, particularly the entitlement framework;
  •             - reduce the number of surplus places;
  •             - reduce the need for pupils to travel;
  • - provides scope for shared education and/or facilities or other resources;
  • - considers all possible options to meet the terms of reference.