Schools across Armagh have submitted their plan for a city-wide shared campus and called on Education Minister John O’Dowd to endorse it.
A total of 13 schools, along with Southern Regional College and Armagh City and District Council, came together this week to call on the Minister to support their plan as a flagship model for shared education.
‘Armagh – A Learning City’ includes plans for 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.
Last month, St Patrick’s Grammar School announced it was not going to relocate to the shared site as originally planned. However, the planning group denied this was a setback and said it would press ahead with its plans.
St Patrick’s also said it looked forward to continuing to play a full part in the shared education project.
The call for ministerial support came after the Department of Education revealed last week it had received 15 expressions of interest for shared campuses.
The Office of the Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) plans to create 10.
Chief Executive of Armagh City and District Council John Briggs said, “The proposal has the potential to be the first truly ‘shared education’ project that brings together all elements of the educational spectrum including early years, primary, special education, secondary, grammar, Irish medium and further and higher education.”
The plan to share facilities was first developed in April 2013 by four schools and later became the Educational and Community Village Consensus (ECVCA). Convener of ECVCA Bishop Rev Dr Alan Harper said, “We are delighted that a year after the first schools came together we have grown and flourished into a group that represents all educational sectors in the city.”
Applications will be assessed by the Department of Education over the coming weeks with successful projects being announced before the summer break. It is anticipated that work will begin on the construction of the campuses by 2016.
In relation to funding, a department spokesperson said, “No decision has been taken as yet as to the amount of funding to be allocated to the programme. This will be considered in light of the number, size, scope and quality of proposals received. OFMDFM and DE will consider the funding mechanisms in due course.”