Minister's Statement to the Assembly - 26 September 2011

In his statement to the Assembly, on 26 September 2011, the Minister, John O’Dowd MLA, highlighted the need to move forward with the implementation of the Sustainable School Policy and the process of strategic planning on an area basis.

The Minister has 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 can not 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. Until such times as the EA is established the Minister has indicated that an area planning process be commenced.

The Area Planning process will result in an effectively planned, sustainable and affordable pattern of schools. This will ensure that we have the right type and size of schools, in the right places, to meet the needs of our pupils and young people.

As a precursor and to inform the wider area approach to planning, the Education and Library Boards and CCMS, working in close conjunction with other sectors, are tasked with undertaking a viability audit of all schools. This will identify those schools which are evidencing stress now in relation to sustainable enrolment levels, delivery of quality education, and financial viability.    

The viability audit will identify those schools where action will need to be taken in the short term to protect the education of pupils. It will also support the development of a detailed area profile based on current and relevant educational information which will be an essential part of the area planning process.

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