Roy Beggs MLA has expressed his disappointment that the Education Minister has approved the expansion of Ulidia Integrated College ahead of the proposed merger of Downshire College and Carrickfergus College indicated in the area plan.
Roy Beggs said, “It is disappointing that the Minister has approved the expansion of Ulidia Integrated College ahead of the area plan proposed merger of Carrickfergus College and Downshire School. Post Primary Pupil numbers have been dropping in the Carrickfergus area and the expansion proposal for one particular School in advance of the area plan to amalgamate Schools would add to the financial pressures at Carrickfergus College and Downshire School where the majority of additional pupils would be expected to be attracted from.
In my own response to the consultation, I had indicated my support for the expansion of Ulidia Integrated School were it to occur at the same time as Downshire School and Carrickfergus College are amalgamated onto a new build site. If such an expansion had occurred, as part of the area plan process, there would be advantages to all pupils and sectors and no disadvantage to any educational group.
The two Controlled Secondary Schools, Carrickfergus College and Downshire School, attract pupils from the disadvantaged communities and many working class Protestant boys in particular. This decision will result in fewer pupils, less finance, and fewer options at these Schools. This could lead to further marginalisation of working class Protestant boys whose underachievement is widely recognised. This decision will feed into community concerns that some are being left behind and could detract from community relations.
It is disappointing that instead of everyone benefiting, one school will benefit at the expense of others.