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Northern Ireland 'too many schools' as report identifies up to 40 schools for closure or merger

More than 220 schools operating an annual loss

Northern Ireland has too many schools, says report author.
Northern Ireland has too many schools, says report author.

By Jonny Bell

A major plan for the strategy of education in Northern Ireland has identified up to 40 schools which could merge or close.

Schools have been identified where "sustainability is an issue" meaning education chiefs faced with considering options and opening consultations on possible mergers or even closures.

Northern Ireland schools facing possible closure or merger [full list] 

EA Director of Education John Collings said: "We have too many schools for the size of our population, particularly at primary school level."

The Education Authority plan, called Providing Pathways and published on Friday, sets out priorities and actions for schools for the next three years.

The regional plan also shows that more than 220 schools are running at budget deficits, according to the Education Authority's first regional plan.

The news comes as more than 40 school heads said they will refuse to implement any more cuts to their school budgets.

Mr Collings added: "Providing Pathways is the first area plan for the whole of Northern Ireland.

"It aims to ensure that we have a network of sustainable schools for Northern Ireland that are of the right type, of the right size, and in the right place."

The detailed report reveals that 36% of primary schools in Northern Ireland have fewer than 106 pupils. The report contains action plans for named schools across Northern Ireland's 11 local government districts.

For some schools, such as Belfast Boys and Girls Model school, consultation on increased numbers is recommended, for others such as St Louise's in west Belfast, a possible reduction in pupil numbers is suggested.

The Board of Governors at Gaelscoil na bhFal is to carry out a consultation on a decrease in enrolment, while the future of a number of schools is to be examined, including the troubled Movilla High School in Newtownards.

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