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‘Shared education’ bid for Armagh expected to be resubmitted shortly

A bid to create a new ‘shared education’ campus in Armagh will be resubmitted in the autumn, Armagh I can reveal.

The move comes after the proposal did not feature in the first three selected for approval by Education Minister John O’Dowd in June.

At the most recent scrutiny committee meeting of Armagh City and District Council, Chief Executive John Briggs highlighted that the Armagh-based ‘shared education’ plan was not in the first tranche of applications.

But he said that feedback would follow which would allow the council the chance to reapply in the autumn.

Mr Briggs told the meeting that it was his intention to bring a report to council in future and it was hoped that guidance could be obtained on resubmission of an application in the autumn.

In June we reported how two primary schools in Moy were to be housed on one site as one of the first three of the Minister’s campuses to proceed to planning stage.

The Moy Project shared campus initiative will see Moy Regional Controlled Primary School and St John’s Primary School accommodated in a new single 12 class-base school, on a new site.

Whilst each school will retain its own distinct ethos and identity, it is envisaged that the two schools will share facilities, such as the multi-purpose hall, play areas, library and ancillary accommodation.

It was in January 2014, that the Minister launched the Shared Education Campuses Programme, with a deadline of March 31 last for receipt for expressions of interest.

Under the Executive’s ‘Together: Building a United Community’ initiative, a target has been set of commencing work on 10 campuses within the next five years.

And one of those hoping to be successful was a joint bid for a shared city-wide campus in Armagh, bringing together a total of 15 organisations.

Almost a year after four Armagh schools came together to endorse a shared education campus in the city, a total of 13 local schools, alongside the Southern Regional College and Armagh City and District Council, came together to back an expression of interest in ‘Armagh – A Learning City’, which was submitted to the Department of Education’s Shared Education Campuses Programme.

The Armagh bid proposed networked linkages between schools, combining at centres of excellence across the city that would have provided access to state of the art teaching and learning facilities across a range of disciplines.

But despite it not featuring in the first three, the Minister’s words at the time still show his commitment to shared education and it is hoped that the Armagh bid will yet get Mr O’Dowd’s approval.

Delivering his decision in June, Minister O’Dowd had said: “I believe shared education has the potential to deliver real educational benefits, to ensure best use of resources and to further community cohesion.

“The Shared Education Campuses Programme provides schools with the opportunity to build on existing sharing arrangements and access funding to help improve or provide shared facilities. We received a significant level of interest in this programme with 16 applications. I am pleased to be in a position to announce the first three projects to be supported.”

Last year Minister John O’Dowd came to Armagh for what supporters viewed as a “very positive meeting”.

The Armagh group’s application included plans to create a sports and recreation centre of excellence, a STEM centre of excellence, a languages and the arts centre of excellence, an ICT, digital media and creative media zone, a Business Institute and an Ecclesiastical Heritage Studies centre of excellence.

But the three projects selected were:

  • Shared STEM and sixth form facilities for St Mary’s High School, Limavady and Limavady High School.
  • Shared Educational Campus for Moy Regional Primary School and St John’s Primary School, Moy.
  • Shared Educational Campus for Ballycastle High School and Cross and Passion College, Ballycastle.

The Minister continued: “The three projects selected will build on well established sharing arrangements between the schools involved and will help embed and enhance those sharing arrangements.

“This was the first call for projects and I am conscious that the limited time meant not everyone was able to have proposals worked up in time for the deadline. Therefore as well as approving the three projects to be advanced through to a detailed business case, I am announcing that a second call for projects will open in September this year.

“I look forward to further innovative shared proposals coming forward at that time. Those that were unsuccessful in this announcement will receive feedback on their proposal and can resubmit it if appropriate, to this second call.

“I am confident that we will have additional successful projects to announce in the future that will help achieve the target of 10 new campuses commenced in the next five years.”

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