Principal issues renewed call for ‘long overdue’ investment in Carrickfergus Academy

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The principal of Carrickfergus Academy has called on the Education Authority to deliver on its promise to provide a new-build school.

Amanda Irvine was speaking after hosting a party of East Antrim DUP representatives, who echoed her appeal in relation to the school which has been operating on two sites since the amalgamation of Carrickfergus College and Downshire School in 2018.

Mrs Irvine said: “I would like to thank our local political representatives for their time and support for Carrickfergus Academy as we seek to improve the educational experience of young people in Carrickfergus by insisting that the Education Authority provide what they had indicated would happen, initially as part of our amalgamation, and then with the announcement of capital funding for our new building.

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"The young people of Carrickfergus deserve the best facilities that post primary education can provide and Carrickfergus Academy are long overdue for this type of investment.”

Cllr Peter Johnston, Gordon Lyons MLA, principal Mrs A Irvine and Sammy Wilson MP. Photo submitted by DUPCllr Peter Johnston, Gordon Lyons MLA, principal Mrs A Irvine and Sammy Wilson MP. Photo submitted by DUP
Cllr Peter Johnston, Gordon Lyons MLA, principal Mrs A Irvine and Sammy Wilson MP. Photo submitted by DUP

In a joint statement, East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson, MLAs Gordon Lyons and Cheryl Brownlee and Councillor Peter Johnston highlighted the challenges a split site arrangement presents for both staff and pupils.

They said: “The community in Carrickfergus have waited long enough for the Education Authority (EA) to deliver on their promise of a new build school for Carrickfergus Academy.

"The amalgamation of Downshire and Carrickfergus College was agreed to on the basis that a new build would be delivered.

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"It is completely unacceptable for students, parents and teachers to be disadvantaged because of the obfuscation of the EA.”

Politicians from a range of parties have supported the long-running campaign for new premises for the school.

In March 2022, then DUP Education Minister Michelle McIlveen announced that 28 schools, including Carrickfergus Academy, were to benefit from a capital investment in the region of £794million.

Referring to that announcement in their statement, the East Antrim representatives said it “made the building of a modern, well-equipped, state of the art school for Carrickfergus Academy a priority”.

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They went on to say: "Yet we are now told that budget constraints are delaying construction and this is having a detrimental impact on both pupils and staff.

"For example, forcing teachers to commute between two sites, sometimes on multiple occasions in the same day, is unsustainable and unfair.

"Despite these challenges, it was great to meet recently with the principal and discuss the impressive academic results being achieved by the school. Carrickfergus Academy is a great school and we believe the delivery of the promised new build would sustainably improve the learning and working environment for both pupils and staff.

“In the coming months, we will facilitate a visit to the school by the Education Authority and the Department of Education. Promises made must be delivered and we will continue to push the EA until Carrickfergus Academy has the premises it is entitled to.”

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In response, a spokesperson for the EA said: “The Education Authority provided support to the school in January 2022 with an application to the Department of Education for a new build school. This application was announced to advance in planning under the Major Capital Works Programme, in March 2022, however, in April 2023, due to unprecedented financial pressures across the education sector, the Department advised that, regrettably, a number of capital build projects would not be in a position to proceed at this time, which included Carrickfergus Academy."