Northern Ireland Assembly, 09 March 2010
Like my colleagues, I congratulate Peter Weir on initiating the debate. I declare an interest as a member of North Down Borough Council. As Mr Farry pointed out, the council is discussing potential joint efforts with Priory Integrated College.
I want to come back to Angela Smith’s statement of 1 March 2006 on investment in a school building programme. There were around 10 different schools in the South Eastern Education and Library Board, and very few of them have got very far. Bangor Grammar School was one of the first to be informed that it would benefit from the programme, followed by three schools in Holywood. In addition, as a member of the board of governors of St Columbanus College, I raised with the Minister previously the fact that its building project has also been delayed. I understand that it was due to be on site last month.
Dominic Bradley put the issue into a wider context. Most of the schemes are under review. I understand that most of them have passed their review, but they are still waiting for a response. As has been pointed out, it is very frustrating that that response has been delayed. I understand that architects are being laid off by certain schools because they cannot go ahead with the development.
As far as I am concerned, Priory Integrated College is a special school. My son went there when it was Holywood High School. In 1995, it voted to become an integrated school and, at that stage, there was concern about its long-term future. The situation was reviewed in the Bain report. However, the college has expanded in the past few years, and its student numbers have greatly exceeded the numbers required. There was a need for a new school when my son went there in 1996, and now, 14 years later, the need is much greater.
The plan that was devised to incorporate primary, secondary and nursery schools is an ideal solution for the education facilities in Holywood. I feel that it should be given priority if money becomes available. I ask theMinister to consider the benefits to the community as it very much involves providing facilities for the community. I ask the Minister to take that into consideration when she is deciding on the allocation of the cash.