Board confirms that new school will be in Monkstown

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The North Eastern Education and Library Board has confirmed that the borough’s new post-primary school, due to be created by the merger of Monkstown Community School and Newtownabbey Community High, will be located in Monkstown.

Opinion has been divided over the preferred location for the new school, with some arguing that it should be sited in Rathcoole.

But the Board confirmed this morning that the new school - Abbey Community College - will be located at the Monkstown Community School site.

A spokesperson for the NEELB said that the decision had been taken following careful analysis of several factors, including the potential impact on the community, the fabric and condition of both buildings, availability and access to sporting facilities and the potential investment required for future development.

“The Board’s decision on the location of the new school will enable the Interim Board of Governors and the North Eastern Education and Library Board to progress their planning for the opening of a new and exciting educational institution, for the young people of Newtownabbey, on 1 September 2015,” she said.

Staff and governors at the Bridge Road school are “thrilled” that the new college will be in Monkstown.

Principal Nigel Pell-Ilderton said: “We are delighted that the period of uncertainty is over and that we can now work with Newtownabbey Community High School towards our joint future.”

Chair of the board of governors, Richard McChesney, added: “This has been a long process and we are delighted that the period of uncertainty is now over and we, along with the Interim Board of Governors, can now proceed with the many tasks associated with the formation of a new school.”

While expressing his disappointment at the Board’s decision, NCHS principal John Lewis said that governors, staff and parents at the school are glad that there is now certainty about the merger.

“What must be remembered is that a school is not about a building or a complex, it is about a body of people - staff, governors, parents, pupils and partners - all working together towards the common purpose of ensuring achievement,” he said.

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds, who supported the campaign for the new school to be located at Rathcoole Drive, added: “The merits of the Rathcoole site were clear to see, and it is very disappointing that these have been overlooked. The staff, pupils, parents and governors of Newtownabbey Community High School must be commended for all the great work they have done in creating a truly unique educational experience which will leave behind a legacy of excellence.

“The new school and site have large shoes to fill, and I wish them well in their endeavours.”

Abbey Community College will cater for young people aged 11 - 19 years.