Last year, the education and library boards carried out a public consultation on their draft post-primary area plans. The consultation process for east Belfast and any other area will follow the same principles. Following my statement on 26 February, the boards have now put their consultation reports and revised area plans on their websites. The boards are due to start their public consultation on primary area plans on 19 March. There will be an extended consultation period until the end of June. That public consultation will allow all with an interest in education to participate and present their views.
Where a proposal for a significant change to a school is included in an area plan, whether it is a primary or post-primary area plan, it will require the publication of a development proposal. That involves the board conducting a pre-publication consultation with the school’s board of governors, parents and staff, and also with other schools that the board considers might be affected by the proposal. Following that, the board will decide whether to proceed to publish the proposal. If it does, there is a further two-month consultation period. That ensures that all interested parties are informed about proposed changes and have an opportunity to comment. Only then do I as Minister make my decision on a proposal, taking account of all comments and relevant circumstances.