“The children of the Causeway Coast and Glens area deserve the best facilities, properly equipped, designed for purpose to match the commitment of our educators,” said East Londonderry MLA Maurice Bradley after he questioned the Minister for Education, Michelle McIlveen at Stormont.
Mr Bradley asked the Minister to outline the reasons for the delay in the consultation on the merger of Coleraine College, North Coast Integrated College and Dunluce School.
In response, Minister McIlveen said: “The Education Authority is currently working in partnership with representatives of three schools – Coleraine College, Dunluce School, and North Coast Integrated College on a joint proposal for non-selective post-primary provision in the Causeway area.
“The EA (Education Authority) has advised that a consultation document has been prepared and considered by the Board of Governors. The EA Strategic Planning and Policy Committee considered the proposal and has sought some points of clarification.
“It was considered at the EA’s Board Meeting on June 24, 2021, and approval was given to commence pre-publication consultation on September 13 which will run until November 15.
“My Department only becomes formally engaged in the process when the development project has been published.”
Mr Bradley then pushed the Minister on whether capital funding would be available for the new school.
“Minister, there is a genuine concern if the amalgamation is approved that the new school will operate over two sites,” he said. “This will create issues for staffing, for timetabling, and extra costs.
“Can I ask the Minister if capital funding will be made available for a new school and if any lessons have been learned by the Departement from their experiences of other amalgamations?”
The Minister for Education replied: “A major capital investment would not be announced as part of the development proposal approval process. This would only follow if the new school was successful in a future capital funding call.
“Whilst a new school formed following any amalgamation would be well placed to receive funding in a major capital funding call, there would be no guarantee that this would be the case. Subsequently, if approved there would also be no guarantee of the site that would be selected for the investment.
“This is an issue that would be resolved following an analysis of options available in the business case prepared to seek approval for the major capital investment.
“Any decision to amalgamate must be taken independently of the future of the school.
“With regards to ‘lessons learned’, experience has shown that school amalgamations are complex and require thorough and timely planning.
“Each amalgamation has its own set of unique circumstances and my officials will work with individual schools to assist with the implementation.”
Speaking after the Minister’s comments, the East Londonderry MLA said: “This is a step in the right direction for post-primary education in the Coleraine area.
“We have excellent teachers at all three schools, the facilities do not match that expertise and this must be addressed.
“A new purpose-built school, equipped and designed for the future is no more than our children deserve.”
It is understood that the new school will be on the existing Coleraine High School site on Lodge Road, Coleraine, with a business case for a new build at the Ulster University campus down the line.