Sinn Féin education spokesperson Karen Mullan has backed a proposal for a new shared Groarty Integrated Primary and Gaelscoil Na Daróige campus, saying it would help meet the growing educational needs of Derry’s nortwestern suburbs
The Foyle MLA said the propsal was an exciting opportunity to establish what would be the first ever joint Irish language and integrated campus in the North.
“I support the proposal by Groarty Integrated Primary and Gaelscoil Na Daróige in Ballymagroarty to move to a shared campus,” said Ms. Mullan.
“I believe this is an innovative and unique proposal which builds on existing collaboration between the two schools and is consistent with the Education Authority’s (EA) responsibility to promote both Irish medium and integrated education.”
The Foyle MLA said the proposed shared campus also represented a chance to build educational capacity in an area of the city where the population is expected to explode over the coming decades.
“With the ongoing building of thousands of new homes along the Skeoge Road and the plans for the massive H2 site on the Buncrana Road, it’s vitally important we plan ahead and community infrastructure is put in place,” she said.
Last year the two schools submitted a bid for a joint campus under an initiative originally announced after the Stormont House talks in 2014 that was supposed to promote shared and integrated education across the North.
Back then the UK Government specifically pledged “a contribution of up to £500m over 10 years of new capital funding to support shared and integrated education subject to individual projects being agreed between the Executive and the UK Government”.
However, the EA last year issued a recommendation to refuse an application from Groarty and Na Daróige for a part of this pot for a shared campus, stating that it feared the proposed joint school might present sustainability issues in future.
Notwithstanding this the application won the support of members of Derry City and Strabane District Council, which wrote to the EA asking it to reverse its refusal recommendation.
But the Director of Education at EA, John Collings, stood firm, stating: “The schools concerned were informed prior to application that sustainability may be an issue for the Education Authority (as the Managing/Planning Authority of Groarty IPS) given that both schools are below the minimum threshold of 140 pupils for an urban setting.”