Local MLA Mr Robin Swann, has challenged Sinn Fein schools minister John O’Dowd to overturn any decision to close Ballee High School in Ballymena.
Assemblyman Swann challenged the minister on the issue during question time in the Stormont Chamber when the North Antrim UUP MLA asked the Minister of Education for an update on area planning in Ballymena.
Responding to Assemblyman Swann, Minister O’Dowd said: “I can give you an update on Ballee. Consultation on the development proposal for that school has ended.
“My officials will receive the information from the board and collate all the information that we have gathered in relation to Ballee.
“At a future stage, I will make a decision on the future of that school. I do not have the information on the other school in front of me, but I am happy to share that with the Member in written form” said Minister O’Dowd.
Assemblyman Swann kept pressing the minister, stating: “I think that he knew where I was going to go in the supplementary. I declare an interest as a governor of two schools in the town of Ballymena. The proposed closure of Ballee is ongoing.
“Does he not think that it pre-empts area planning if the school is closed before a full area planning scheme can be put in place?
“Would he also like to comment on the Better Way proposal that was put forward by the governors of Ballee Community High School when we met him twice?” asked Mr Swann.
Minister O’Dowd then responded to the North Antrim MLA by stating: “The Member will appreciate that the consultation is now closed. It would be unfair of me - indeed, I would be in breach of my statutory duties - to give any views on whether or not the development proposal was timely.
“That will form part of my deliberations before I make any decision on that matter,” the minister told Assemblyman Swann.
The minister added: “I have to say that I was impressed with the views expressed and the plans brought forward by the board of governors. I have had two meetings with representatives of the board of governors.
“As in many other circumstances that I deal with, I have to make a decision on whether those interventions have taken place in time and whether they will be able to ensure that current and future pupils will be able to achieve excellent education in that facility. Those are the deliberations that I will have to think about in the weeks ahead,” said Minister O’Dowd.