THE North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB) has announced a radical consultation process which will change the landscape of secondary education provision in Newtownabbey.
The process was launched by the Education Minister John O’Dowd late last year to address decreasing pupil numbers and soaring debts in schools across the country in order to provide a sustainable schooling system.
Following an audit of local schools, the NEELB this week launched a consultation process asking the public to contribute their views on three options for the future of schools in the area.
Under consideration is Option One which is to maintain the status quo, which local Principals have said is “totally unworkable”.
However, both Options Two and Three would see the Monkstown, Newtownabbey and Glengormley High schools combine in some form.
The remaining schools, including Belfast High, Ballyclare Secondary and Ballyclare High will remain unchanged.
Edmund Rice College is included in the ‘North Belfast Solution’ which could see it being merged with seven other schools to produce four facilities providing education within the Catholic sector in the north Belfast area.
The NEELB has already consulted with the schools’ staff, parents, and governors on the options and is asking for the public’s opinion on the way forward. The changes could be implemented as soon as 2016.
Principals at the three local schools which will be most affected have welcomed the proposals.
John Lewis from Newtownabbey Community High School said: “We welcome the options for future educational provision in the Newtownabbey area and put Options Two and Three to the NEELB for consideration following consultation in March.
“It is important schools are viable and financially healthy and offer the best options for the children.
“For those reasons, the Board of Governors of Newtownabbey Community High has decided to support the NEELB strategy and to pledge to work to look after the young people in any proposed longterm plan for transition.”
Mr Lewis added: “The school’s enrolment has increased and last year we celebrated our best ever year for GCSE results.
“The school has reassured its current and incoming pupils that it will continue to take the issues of pupil welfare, quality teaching and learning and examination and career aspirations of the young people very seriously.
“It currently operates as a very settled family school, where all young people have a voice and input, feel secure and content and where they are provided with the support, guidance and teaching to achieve their full potential.
“The school looks forward with enthusiasm to taking its place in the planning for any proposed change to the educational provision in the Newtownabbey area.”
Monkstown Community High School Principal Mr Nigel Pell-Iderton added: “We will play an active role in all future consultations as we strive for the best possible education for our pupils.
“We will work with the other schools involved to analyse the options and with the NEELB to refine and adjust them.
“We plan to consult widely with governors, parents, staff, pupils and the community before responding in October.
“We are in a strong position with many good things happening in Monkstown.
“We are optimistic for the future of schooling in Newtownabbey and are keen to be involved in formulating even better provision for our young people.”
Principal Lex Hayes of Glengormley High School said there was a broad agreement on the proposals being put out to consultation.
He said: “At the heart of this is the welfare and interests of the pupils. What is clear is that schools cannot run at a deficit for much longer - that just can’t happen.
“At every stage of the process the NEELB has been working with us throughout the entire process, right from the beginning.
“And because of that the NEELB has to be praised for its work.”
No-one could be reached at Rosstulla School to provide a comment.
To have your say on the future of secondary education in the borough go to www.neelb.org.uk Deadline for submissions is October 26.