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Newtownbreda and Knockbreda schools to get brand new school building

By Rebecca Black

A new state-of-the-art building has been announced for two south Belfast secondary schools that will be amalgamated.

John O'Dowd made the announcement following the conclusion of a judicial review brought by representatives of Newtownbreda High School.

The merger of Newtownbreda High School with nearby Knockbreda High School was announced in January after viability assessments were carried out.

At that time, Mr O'Dowd said the new merged school would initially operate on a split campus and could not guarantee when a new purpose-built school could be delivered.

The merger was due to take place in September 2014, but yesterday Mr O'Dowd also announced it would be delayed until September 2015.

Falling enrolment formed part of the basis for concluding a change was required.

The parents of pupils at Newtownbreda High went to court in an attempt to have the plans quashed, claiming their children's education will suffer.

But last week Mr Justice Treacy dismissed the case.

Making the announcement yesterday, Mr O'Dowd said the new school "will provide state-of-the-art educational facilities for the young people of the area for many years to come".

Unionist MLAs have welcomed the announcement.

DUP representative Jimmy Spratt also hailed the news that the amalgamation of Knockbreda and Newtownbreda High Schools will be delayed until 2015 to allow the new principal to take charge.

UUP representative Michael McGimpsey said he is seeking clarity over the location of the new school.

"It must be in south Belfast in order to retain a secondary school in that area and I am convinced that the most appropriate site for the new state-of-the-art school is the site of the current Newtownbreda school, which is more than capable of accommodating the new premises," he said.

Background

Education Minister John O'Dowd's decision to amalgamate Newtownbreda and Knockbreda High Schools sparked fury in January this year with a Newtownbreda parents group strongly opposing the move. They later took legal action, taking a judicial review against Mr O'Dowd's decision, however this case was dismissed by Mr Justice Treacy just last week.

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