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Report aims to encourage community use of school premises

2 February, 2012 - by John O'Dowd

Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has welcomed the publication of a Working Group Report aimed at increasing the use of school premises by local communities.

The Report was completed by a Working Group, established by the Department and made up of key educational stakeholders. It makes recommendations aimed at enhancing the community use of schools and includes case studies of existing good practice in a number of schools.

Having considered the Report, and taking account of the views received from a range of external partners, the Department of Education has also today published its comments on the Report and set out proposals for the way forward.

Commenting on the publication of both documents, the Minister said: “In September I laid out my vision for the future of education here. In my statement, I spoke of how we as a society value education – it is fundamental to all our futures and to the futures of our local communities.

“To achieve this, I firmly believe that strong, viable and sustainable schools must be at the heart of local communities - building relationships and genuine engagement and being responsive to the needs of the wider community.

“Many schools across the north already make their facilities available to the wider community. Over the coming months, further detailed guidance for schools will be developed by the Education and Library Boards, working with the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools and in close conjunction with the other school sectors. In the meantime, I hope the Report and the helpful case studies and templates support schools overcome real or perceived barriers to enhance community use.”

The Minister concluded: “Given the pressures on the education budget, it will not be feasible to implement all the recommendations contained in the Report. However, the wide-ranging nature of the recommendations means that this is not a barrier to greater use of school premises and I am grateful to the Working Group for the contribution the Report has made towards informing developments on enhanced community use of the schools estate.

“I now strongly encourage school leaders and Boards of Governors to consider opening the doors of their school for use by the community and to take into account the case studies and, when developed, the guidance prepared by education partners. I want to see our schools operating at the heart of the community.”

The Working Group Report and the DE Comments paper can be found on the DE website: -

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