Pupil numbers to decrease within decade according to birth forecasts
She said birth and population projections suggest school enrolments are bound to fall.
The minister was asked for her assessment of whether pupil numbers are expected to increase in the coming years how this 'forecast aligns with current and planned school closures' by the Independent East Derry MLA Claire Sugden.
"My Department produces school population projections each year and these estimate that pupil numbers are expected to decrease by 2030/31. These projections are guided by birth and population projections produced by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency as well as input from Policy Branches within the Department of Education," said the minister.
She added that the planning of education provision is a matter for the Education Authority in liaison with the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools and representatives of the other school sectors.
"My Department is engaged in this process only at the point where a Development Proposal (DP) is published. The Sustainable Schools Policy describes various solutions available, to be explored with a view to ensuring there is a viable and sustainable level of quality educational provision in an area.
"While closure may be the only realistic option to ensure that the educational interests of children are addressed in a sustainable setting, I have set out my expectation in a written statement to the Assembly that the planning authorities will develop planning options and bring forward innovative, shared and creative solutions that provide sustainable provision in communities," she stated.