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Sustainable Schools a vital part of Education - Ruane

4 July, 2008 - by Caitríona Ruane

Sinn Féin Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has said that sustainable schools are a vital part of a modern education system.

The Minister was speaking as two new policy papers were published. The Area Based Planning Policy Paper has been published for consultation, while the Policy for Sustainable Schools was subject to public consultation last year. Together, both policies will influence significant reform in education.

The Minister said:

"Over the past year I have been working on a programme of progressive reforms, which will work together to bring our education system up to date. It is essential that we have a robust policy base to help deliver educationally sustainable schools planned on an area basis to meet local needs.

"The Area Based Planning Paper sets out the general policy approach to area-based planning and the future respective roles of the Department of Education, the Education and Skills Authority and the education sectoral interests. It is about how our schools work together in local communities to deliver maximum choice and access to the Entitlement Framework.

"The Policy for Sustainable Schools is very much about ensuring all our children receive a high quality and wide ranging educational experience to prepare them for later years. It is not an agenda to close schools. It is not about simple headcounts.

"This policy sets out six criteria for helping to assess the important issue of the viability of schools. They cover the strength of links to the community, the educational experience of children, enrolment trends, financial position, school leadership and management, and accessibility.

"When schools are reviewed against these criteria, it does not automatically mean amalgamation or closure will be considered if weaknesses are identified. Local circumstances, such as distance to another suitable school, will also determine future action. There needs to be a sensitive case by case evaluation to ensure all relevant facts are considered in the best interests of the education of our children and young people.

"This policy is about ensuring our schools estate is robust and capable of delivering educational excellence to meet the needs and aspirations of all pupils, while ensuring school leaders receive the appropriate level of support to help them deliver this excellence." ENDS

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