Everybody knows the history of the school, which is situated on the west bank of the River Foyle. The school has enjoyed working with, and educating, the young people of the west bank for many years. During the past 30 years the school has had no choice but to try to find a site on the east bank of the river. During the 1970s and 1980s many Protestants were forced to leave the west bank because of Republican violence, and they continue to do so. Will the Minster confirm that there was no opposition to the school’s moving to the east bank? Has a new site been identified on the east bank?
The relocation of Foyle and Londonderry College is the subject of a development proposal that was published by the Western Education and Library Board on 10 May 2002. In addition to that development proposal, further work must be undertaken by my officials in conjunction with the school in order to give me a full assessment of the situation. The board of governors has also indicated that it would like to meet me. That meeting is now unlikely to take place in the foreseeable future. The board’s views should be heard before any decision is taken. However, I cannot put a timescale on that.
I do not want to speculate on how the site will be used. My stewardship of the matter is to recognise that the relocation of the college is the subject of a development proposal from the Western Education and Library Board. When that has been dealt with and a decision has been taken, there will be keen interest in the city of Derry to ensure that the site is used for proper and useful purposes. I have tremendous sympathy with the Member’s last point. However, as Minister of Education, I have no control over housing in the Derry area.
Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Does the Minster agree that the threatened closure of Templemore Secondary School, and the planned retreat of Foyle College to the Waterside, may contribute to the reduction of cultural diversity on the city side of Derry and adversely affect the freedom of parents to choose non-denominational schools for their children?
I am aware that that issue is hotly debated in Derry. I understand the concerns that have been expressed.
That said, decisions on the future of Templemore Secondary School and the issue of Foyle and Londonderry College will, unfortunately, have to be taken by someone else in the coming weeks and months. If that person is not prepared to take those decisions, or chooses not to, whoever returns as Minister of Education after suspension will have to deal with the matter then.
The questions today were specifically about Foyle and Londonderry College. I have laid out exactly how we intend to proceed on the issue. More work must be done. We should wait until officials and others meet the board of governors and take their own decision.