It is dealing with the strategic planning of a network of sustainable schools which deliver high quality education to meet the needs of all pupils in a sustainable and efficient manner as outlined in the “Schools for the Future: A policy for Sustainable Schools (SSP)”.
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. 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 and that are maximising the impact of available resources in their best interest. The DSF Project will also examine all barriers to effective strategic planning and develop proposal to address these issues. 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: -
Strand 1 is jointly delivered by an Education Authority (EA) and Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) Taskforce Team. Strand 1 aims to substantially increase the pace of area planning and build a collaborative approach to Area Planning across both organisations. Uniquely, the project has enabled the secondment of serving school leaders into the area planning team which has helped reinforce the educational focus of area planning proposals, instilled confidence and built positive relationships.
In 2018/19 16 projects from the EA’s Annual Action Plan were identified to ‘accelerate’ through the Area Planning and Development Proposal (DP) processes to help identify the barriers to progress. Of these four did not proceed but four additional mainstream projects were identified to commence in 2019/20 together with eight SEN projects, making a total of 24 which are currently being progressed under Strand 1. This Strand is EA led, supported by CCMS.
Strand 2 focuses on 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 strand also includes a “Resetting of School Admissions and Enrolment Numbers pilot” which aims to develop a new process to reduce the admissions and enrolment numbers of primary schools to a lower established norm without the need for a DP. This strand is DE led and supported by EA and CCMS; and
Strand 3 will update the SSP to reflect current context. This strand is DE led.
It is envisaged that the future network of schools will comprise fewer but larger schools which are better able to maximise the impact of the available resources and provide all pupils with equity of access to the full range of curricular and extra-curricular activities.
The timescale for Strands 2 and 3 for this project will be medium to long term with the intention that they will be informed by early gains secured through Strand 1. Underpinning all three Strands will be the development of revised Area Planning and DP guidance which addresses many of the perceived and real barriers to effective Area Planning which will be prepared in time to support the next Strategic Area Plan for 2021 onwards.