The Education Minister visited Armagh for a tour of the proposed Educational and Community Village site and to hear first-hand the plans for shared education in the city and district.
John O’Dowd MLA, met with members of the Steering Group of the Educational and Community Village Consensus on Wednesday (23 October) to discuss their vision for education and the community in the city.
The group aims to create a planned network of viable and sustainable schools, with shared teaching and recreational facilities, on a joint site at the heart of Armagh.
His visit was preceded by the commencement of work on a similar project in Lisanelly, Omagh where a shared campus will be built on the site of former army barracks.
The Consensus Steering Group called on the Minister and his Department similarly to support the Armagh Educational and Community Village proposal.
The Minister’s visit comes after his statement to the NI Assembly on Tuesday 22 October in which he outlined the way forward for shared education across Northern Ireland. Mr O’Dowd told the Assembly that sharing must become the accepted reality at every stage of education, from early years to post-graduate study.
He also said his Department is working with Atlantic Philanthropies and OFMdFM with a view to put in place an additional funding programme to support shared education.
The Minister was taken on a tour of the proposed Educational and Community Village site by steering group convener and Royal School governor Bishop Alan Harper and members from St Patrick’s Grammar School, City of Armagh High School, the Southern Regional College and Armagh City and District Council, having first been welcomed at St Patrick’s Grammar School by Fr Kevin Donaghy, Principal of St Patrick’s, and by students and pupils from each of the educational establishments involved in the project.
The Educational and Community Village Steering Group convener Bishop Alan Harper said: “We were delighted to welcome to Minister for Education to Armagh today so that he could see at first-hand our plans for the Educational and Community Village.
“We have been greatly encouraged by the Minister’s engagement with the project and hope to work closely with him to achieve our vision of an Educational and Community Village which we believe offers a model for co-ordinating educational services and infrastructure that will deliver both the best educational outcomes for our children and significant savings for the Department.
“We are convinced that the model we are proposing, with all its educational, social and financial benefits, is applicable not just in Armagh, but in other areas elsewhere in the region.
“We look forward to hearing how the Minister plans to take forward the proposals made by OFMdFM to create 10 shared educational villages and we firmly believe Armagh to be very well placed to be one of the first.”