Area Based Planning?

What is Area Based Planning?

Crippling budget cuts and ever-decreasing pupil numbers has required action to be taken to reduce the number of schools across Northern Ireland; there is currently estimated to be 85,000 spare places or the equivalent of 150 schools in excess of capacity (out of a total of 1,070 schools). In response, the Education Minister, John O’Dowd, announced viability audits to identify those schools which were evidencing stress in remaining educationally viable. The basis of these audits, conducted by the five Education and Library Boards in conjunction with CCMS and other schools sectors, was collecting information on enrolments, education performance and financial viability. Following on from the viability audits, the Boards and CCMS, working with other sectors, were asked to develop collective strategic plans for their 5 geographic areas. The Boards published their draft area plans for post-primary schools for public consultation on 5th July with the consultation running until the end of October. The plans for primary schools will be released around the end of 2012 or start of 2013.

The consultation process represents an opportunity for parents and young people to access information on their local schools; to have a conversation with others in their area; to engage with those making decisions on the future of their local schools; to offer their ideas on the draft plans and what they might keep, change or add. Please follow the IEF website for updates on information and learning events, for public consultation events, and for information on how to contribute a response to the area-based plans.

The IEF is also providing support to:


Link to ELB websites for more information on plans.


Running a Community Audit

Running a Community Audit
The IEF will contribute to the costs of running a community audit/ survey that seeks to measure the level of public support for a structural solution to sharing within or between local schools from different management types. Please contact the IEF if you would like further information


ea Based Planning Consultation

Area Based Planning Consultation
The IEF will provide developmental support as well as contribute to the costs of organising a consultation event for parents and the wider community on post primary or primary area plans. Please contact the IEF if you would like further information


rning Workshop for Parents

Learning Workshops for Parents
For many parents, how their school works and how the education system works remains a mystery. The IEF is developing an evening workshop for parents to explore parents’ relationships and rights with respect to their their school and the wider education system. Please contact the IEF if you would like further information.


Local Conversations

Local Conversations
The IEF has two small grants open for community groups (Community Engagement in Education Grant Programme) and for schools (Exploring Opportunities for Structural Sharing) wishing to explore greater levels of sharing in their neighbourhood.


[1] Department of Education, Northern Ireland (2011) Putting Pupils First: Shaping the Future – the next steps for education.

[1] Planning for Sustainability – 2011 Viability Audit – Terms of Reference. Department of Education.