With young people across the Borough recently commencing the start of new School Term, North Down Alliance Councillor Gavin Walker and I are continuing the campaign to ensure St Columbanus' College get the green light to build long awaited new school building.
Following a series of meetings over the last year with School Principal Mr Liam Perry plus, Chairperson of the Board of Governors Mr Pat McCartan, Alliance representatives Dr Stephen Farry MLA, Councillor Gavin Walker and I have been lobbying the Minister for Education to deliver the much needed new school building. With the new School Development Plan permitting slightly increased enrolment the need for modern, fit for purpose buildings is of paramount importance.
I am therefore disappointed that, in response to correspondence from myself, Minister O'Dowd detailed "St Columbanus' College is not currently in my announced Major Capital Programme. I am therefore unable to commit to taking forward a new build for the College at this time.
Whilst other schools in the area have rightly been awarded new school buildings, St Columbanus' College has been left to exist in out of date buildings ill-equipped to deal with increasing enrolment and modern teaching requirements. I would urge the Minister to reflect upon situation and consider how the new building can be better prioritised by the Department for Education. With a super mixed enrolment, popularity across North Down and Ards areas, a non-selective policy and good academic results St Columbanus' College ticks all the boxes and deserves to see construction work commence as soon as possible.
Commenting on the Minister's commitment to the programme of Minor Capital Works at the College, Alliance Councillor Gavin Walker said, "The ongoing success of the College has resulted in increased enrolment and the need for additional teaching facilities. And so I welcome the Ministers approval of the College's Development Proposal and his commitment to providing additional accommodation.
"In light of the GCSE results this week it is obvious that St Columbanus is an educational success story and we will continue to work with Mr Perry to ensure that the needs of the College - and particularly those of the pupils - remain firmly at the top of the Minister's to-do list."