Secondary education overhaul to see school mergers and closures

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A major overhaul of secondary education in Northern Ireland is to see schools shut and merged. Others that are under threat of closure will be allowed to stay open.

Education minister John O’Dowd made decisions on a series of proposals relating to non-selective, post-primary schools catering for about 3,500 pupils. 

Seven schools in east and south Belfast will undergo some change.

Orangefield High School, which is struggling with poor examination achievements, pupil numbers and attendance, will be shut down. The nearby Newtownbreda and Knockbreda High Schools will amalgamate, initially on a split site.

Dundonald High School, which was due to shut down, has instead received a stay of execution. Priory Integrated College in Holywood will be allowed to increase its numbers.

A similar plan to create extra space for pupils at Ashfield Girls’ and Boys’ schools will not proceed, however.

Orangefield was due to shut last September but that plan had to be put on hold because nearby schools did not have room for extra pupils.

Mr O’Dowd says that with only 92 pupils remaining in Orangefield, it has declined to such an extent that “it is no longer feasible to delay its closure”.

He rejected a separate proposal to shut Dundonald High School, however. In late 2012, it became the first secondary school in the North to be placed in special measures for a second time.

Mr O’Dowd says the provision in Dundonald has “quite simply, not been good enough”.

“But the school is in the right geographical location; the young people are there; and the community – like all communities – needs and deserves a good school,” he explained.

“So I have decided on this occasion not to accept the proposal for closure. Dundonald High School will remain open.

“However, for the school to flourish and its young people to achieve to their full potential it is clear that attitudes, expectation for pupils’ attainment and provision will need to change.”

Hazel Legge, chair of Dundonald’s board of governors, welcomed the minister’s announcement.

“This is great news as regards Dundonald High School. I recognise that the school and community have a lot of work ahead and welcome the challenge,” she said.

 


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