Ulster Unionist MLA for East Antrim Roy Beggs Jnr has written to Minister for Education pointing out an historic underspend on new school buildings in East Antrim, and the continuing need for separate primary schools in Islandmagee and Ballycarry.
In his correspondence the UUP MLA states:
“Since 1999, my constituency has been very badly neglected at primary school level in terms of new/ replacement school buildings, with only 1 project built (St MacNissis Maintained Primary School, Larne) at a cost of £1.21M. This contrasts very unfavourably with the neighbouring constituency of North Antrim which has had 11 new build Primary Schools at a cost of £24.85M (AQW19810/11-15). The spend in East Antrim has been the lowest in the whole of Northern Ireland.”
Mr Beggs said healthy birthrate in both the Ballycarry ward and Islandmagee wards support the case that two schools are sustainable in the area.
“The figures for live births in the Islandmagee ward show that a ten year average of 24 births per year and I have no doubt that should the new school be developed it would meet the required threshold for sustainability. With the uncertainty that has existed I am aware that many parents have been by passing the local schools and taking their children to other schools – such as Whitehead.
It is deeply unfair that a recent dip in pupil numbers coupled with the delay and in moving forward with the Islandmagee plan has now put the future of the school in Ballycarry into doubt. Please also note that in the figures published by the NEELB as part of Area Planning, live births by ward has increased by 161% in Ballycarry over the past 10 years. In 2010/11 there were 47 live births in the Ballycarry ward alone. The figures show the continued need for primary schools in both Ballycarry and Islandmagee.”