A major shake up for the primary school sector could be on the way across Northern Ireland.
NI Education Minister John O’Dowd has acknowledged the publication by Education and Library Boards of their draft primary area plans.
The draft plans set out outline proposals for the future of primary level education provision for each area across the north. A consultation on the draft plans is now open, with the public invited to submit any comments they might have. The consultation will remain open until 30 June 2013.
Commenting on the publication of the draft plans, the Minister said: “In my statement to the Assembly on 26 February I announced a range of actions to take forward the next phase of area planning, including a consultation on the draft primary area plans.
“I note that the Boards have published their plans today and I encourage anyone with an interest in education in their local area to examine the plans and make their views known. A dedicated website, which includes a detailed questionnaire, has been set up on which people can leave any comment they wish on the plans.”
The plans and consultation response questionnaire are available on the Putting Pupils First website or in hard copy on request from individual Education and Library Boards.
The Minister went on to highlight his aims for the consultation period, saying: “It is my intention that these plans will inform wide-ranging discussion and dialogue at local level. This is an opportunity for an informed and mature debate that will shape future primary education provision and help identify local solutions that will benefit all children and young people. I hope to hear innovative ideas, including the consideration of possible sharing of accommodation and resources.”
Down News understands that the Minister would like to see local schools working together to add to sustainability and also working across the religious divide especially in rural communities with schools that have small registers of pupils. This proposal is quite far reaching in challenging the bedrock of Northern Ireland culture but given the economic climate and other social and educational imperatives, it may be necessary to cut the cloth of the education sector accordingly.