Plans for a new south Belfast school have been scrapped because the Department of Education stated ‘there is no funding from central government’.
Blythefield, Donegall Road and Faye Street primary schools, all of which have spiralling costs and falling pupil numbers, were to be amalgamated at this new inner south Belfast primary school.
The local community, Belfast Education and Library Board (BELB), and the primary schools involved were all supportive of the plan for an integrated primary school which the board says would have offered a saving of £1,000 per pupil.
A site for the school has been approved on Belfast City Hospital grounds and the BELB has applied for funding for a full planning application for the site.
UUP MLA Michael McGimpsey said he had been “tirelessly working to gain the support” for the new school for the past number of years but added: “Despite requesting to meet with the Education Minister Caitriona Ruane, she refuses to discuss the proposals or provide a commitment from the Department to fund the scheme.
I am deeply frustrated that despite the fact a new school would greatly improve the educational prospects of children from deprived areas in inner South as well as substantially saving the Board thousands of pounds maintaining the 3 existing schools, the Department will not listen to the community who only wish to provide a better future for their children.
A BELB spokesperson said: “The Board has been working with the three schools, the local community, councillors and the Department of Education to secure approval for a new controlled primary school in South Belfast through an area-based, planning approach.
“The Board has written to the Department seeking funds to explore planning issues in relation to the site.”
Bob Stoker, UUP councillor in the area said: “This is a process that has been going on for a number of years.
“The community are fully supportive of the need for this school.
“The cost saving to the department in the long term could be immense.
“People in this community were looking forward to an integrated school.
“It would improve the educational setting for children in the area.
“The big issue is, everyone has been supportive of this – the one missing link is the Department of Education.”
He said that instead of assisting in breaking the cycle of inner city deprivation in the area, the DE were ‘blaming everything on the economy’.
A spokesperson from the Department of Education was unavailable for comment.