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Future Schools NI

The Future Schools Project aims to support school communities who wish to explore sustainable solutions to primary school provision in their area.

“The education system has a diversity of school types, each with its own distinctive ethos and values. However it is not sustainable."

(New Decade, New Approach Agreement, UK and Irish Governments, January 2020)

About the Project

The aims of Future Schools Project are to support school communities who wish to explore whether there might be a more sustainable solution to primary school provision in their geographic area and provide guidance on how they could move forward with this in practice. This is a particular problem in Northern Ireland where a divided system of education has led to duplication of provision in some areas.

The Project is therefore designed to enable parents and communities to envision and articulate the kind of primary school provision in their area that would offer greatest viability, sustainability and quality of education for children and young people, and support school leadership in their engagement with the Area Planning process.

The Future Schools Project is running from April 2021 to September 2022 and has been undertaken by the research team at Ulster University with the support of funding partner, the Integrated Education Fund.

Over the course of the Project regular meetings were held with the relevant education stakeholders involved in Area Planning, data was gathered from parents through Community Conversations and a NI-wide parent survey, a NI-wide survey of school governors was undertaken, and a draft of the Toolkit was shared with a number of Principals, Governors and stakeholder organisations for feedback.

“It is essential that schooling reflects the educational needs of the pupils and addresses these needs in the most efficient and effective way possible. This can best be achieved through a network of viable and sustainable schools that are of the right type, the right size, located in the right place at the right time and have a focus on raising standards.”

Department of Education NI, Area Planning Guidance for 2022-2027)

Future Schools Toolkit

The Future Schools Toolkit that was developed as part of this Project aims to:

> provide support and guidance that will enable schools and the communities within which they are located to undertake self-evaluation in relation to school sustainability using the Department of Education NI Sustainable Schools criteria and indicators;

> provide guidance in using the Community Conversation methodology to engage communities in a shared exploration about the way forward; and

> set out the pathways and processes involved in Area Planning in order to support school communities to work with the managing authorities towards a realistic, sustainable solution to enable ongoing school provision in the area.

The Toolkit was officially launched at Stormont on 27 May 2022.

  • If, at some stage, there are pressures on keeping both schools sustainable we need to work together to keep the best of what we’ve got – we need to make decisions about what we want before we are told what is going to be happening.

    (Parent participant in the Future Schools Project)

  • It allows everyone to examine options that will benefit communities longer term.

    (School Governor providing feedback on the Future Schools Toolkit)

The toolkit can encourage communities to be proactive in determining their own future. It also provides opportunities for cross sectoral discussions on school provision in particular areas.

(Primary School Principal providing feedback on the Future Schools Toolkit)

  • Developed with support from