Friday 24 November 2017 04:48:09 PM

EA Agrees Not To Close Two Outdoor Centres
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The Education Department have revised their decisions on closing two Rowallene area outdoor education centres but the Ardnabannon and Killowen centres still hangs in the balance.

Newry Mourne and Down Councillors Billy Walker and Terry Andrews along with Strangford MP Jim Shannon and former Education Minister Peter Weir met with top official at the Department in Dundonald on 30 October and following this key meeting there was a reconsideration and turnaround on the EA original policy decision.

At a meeting with EA officials, Councillors Billy Walker and Terry Andrews are pictured with Jim Shannon MP and former Education Minister Peter Weir MLA. Seated front centre is Arlene Kee, EA Assistant Director.

Cllr Walker said: “It seemed initially that the Delamont and Killyleagh centres were going to be closed. Following our meeting we are delighted to say that these two centres will now stay open and will in fact be enhanced. Staff will not be losing their jobs and there are considerable option for them to move with.

“The Killyleagh Outdoor Education Centre will be changing its role to involving special needs but there will certainly be no reduction in staff which is good news for the area.

“Ten months ago we were looking at a very different picture with closures and probably redundancies.”

Cllr Terry Andrews added: “This is an important step forward and the news is to be welcomed.  Both centres were earmarked for closure and will now stay open.

“The Education Authority finally recognised the valid points we raised at that crucial meeting. This is a major turnaround. We were also opposed to the closure of Ardgnabannon outdoor centre near Castlewellan and the Killowen centre.”

Arlene Kee, Assistant EA Director in a letter to the councilors said: “

“Further to our meeting on 30th October 2017 at the Dundonald Office I hope you found the information provided helpful in mapping out the future directions of services.  As discussed, I have noted a few of the key points that should assist Councillors Andrews and Walker with any responses they are required to make and attach some relevant documentation as can be found on the EA Website, for your convenience:

“The Equality and Human Rights Screen document which was discussed at our meeting.  This provides an overview of a range of policy directives and evidence that was taken into account during the decision making process. The Moving Forward paper will ensure that children and young people from a range of cultural backgrounds will continue to have the opportunity to work together to build a positive future.

“In relation to KIllyleagh, our meeting considered the following options will be available for staff at the Killyleagh site:

Ancillary Staff at Killyleagh OEC will have 3 options moving forward:

* Remain at the Killyleagh site providing a new service under the CYPS Directorate
* Relocate to the Delamont site to continue their role within Youth Services
* Apply for the Voluntary Exit Scheme

Professional Instructional staff can:

* Relocate to the Delamont site to continue their role within Youth Services
* Relocate to Peripatetic Services
* Apply for Voluntary Exit.

“The EA can confirm that there will be no compulsory redundancies amongst this group of staff.

“At Delamont, as discussed at our meeting over the coming months EA will

* Ensure significant capital investment takes place on this site

*Work in partnership with Newry, Mourne and Down District Council to develop outdoor activities within Delamont Country Park.

“The EA will work with Newry Mourne and Down District Council to develop a community engagement process to inform the wider community regarding the future usage of the Killowen and Killyleagh sites.”