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College funding status has been misunderstood

I AM writing in response to an article about the future of Immaculate Conception College in Derry (News, March 24).

I am disappointed that the Belfast Telegraph did not contact me in advance of publication to provide me with an opportunity to comment.

Instead, the article used comments from Pat Ramsey MLA, which appear to show a misunderstanding of the situation.

Immaculate Conception College has not lost any funding as a result of changes to the school funding formula. In fact, the school has received additional funds.

The reduction in its budget compared to the previous year has come about because the number of pupils enrolling at the school has fallen dramatically.

That is a result of parents choosing to send their children to other post-primary schools in Derry. That is completely outside of my control.

Furthermore, it is the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) – not my department – that employs the teachers at Immaculate Conception College.

It is CCMS, as managing authority of the Catholic-maintained schools estate, that has put forward the proposal to close the school. No decision has yet been made.

The consultation period on the proposal has ended. My officials are currently pulling together the relevant information, including statistics and analysis of demographics and other education provision in the area and any responses to the consultation, in order for me to then make the final decision on whether to agree the proposal to close the school.

Any decision I make on proposals of this kind is always based on the best educational interests of the children, rather than institutions.

JOHN O'DOWD MLA

Minister of Education

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