Implementation of the SSP has been slower than expected and the position remains that there are too many schools in Northern Ireland which are educationally and financially unsustainable in the longer term. It is crucial that we maximise the impact of available resources in the best interest of children and young people.
The “Delivering Schools for the Future” Project aims to accelerate the pace of Area Planning to deliver a greater number of changes through the Development Proposal (DP) process that ensures there are the right number and type of school in the right place to meet the needs and aspirations of pupils. It will also examine all barriers to effective strategic planning and recommend solutions and central to this will be an update of the SSP. The project will be taken forward by DE in collaboration with EA and CCMS and comprises three strands which should run in parallel: -
Substantially increasing the pace of implementation of the Annual Action Plan 18/19 and building capacity to better deliver the Annual Action Plan 19/20 through collaborative single team approach which will be will be led by EA supported by CCMS as the statutory planning authorities and they will report to DE through the “Delivering Schools or the Future” Project Team/Board;
Identifying barriers to efficient Area Planning and publication of DPs and developing solutions to increase the pace of change through firm proposals to address sustainability and transform education provision. This will be led by DE and supported by EA and CCMS; and
Updating the SSP to reflect current context, including a policy statement on Strategically Important (SI) Schools which will be led by DE
The aim is to explore and develop options for innovative and collaborative ways of delivering high quality education for all pupils and in doing so reduce duplication and over provision within the system. This will lead to significant benefits for children and young people by increasing the number of sustainable schools delivering high quality education which is relevant to their needs and the needs of society and the economy.
It is envisaged that the network of schools will comprise of fewer but larger schools which are better able to maximise the impact of the available resources. In recognition of the rural nature of parts of Northern Ireland consideration will be given to how the system best meets the needs of rural communities by securing the presence of a sustainable education provision that is appropriately funded to ensure equity of access to the full range of curricular and extra-curricular activities.
The timescale for this project will be medium to the longer term (Strands 2 and 3). However this does not mean that early gains cannot be secured through Strand 1 by increased activity in relation to delivery of the strategic priorities already identified in the current Area Plan for 2017-2020.