THE Education Authority (EA) has confirmed that plans to develop additional facilities at Kilkeel High School have been “paused due to budget constraints”. Earlier this year, separate planning applications for a new Sixth Form building – to house a common room and study room – and a modular building containing two classrooms were given the green light by council planners; however, construction work on these projects will not be getting under way in the immediate future.
Documentation submitted with the Sixth Form building application noted that ‘there is no dedicated Sixth Form study room anywhere within the school, nor are there any vacant rooms available for this use that are a suitable size’, and that ‘the existing Sixth Form common areas are inadequate due to room layout and lack of servery, and are spread across two separate locations’. The school’s reopening for the new term was delayed by a week at the start of this month due to unfinished toilet block refurbishment work. When speaking to the Mourne Observer about this issue at the time, Kilkeel High School principal Victor Coert also highlighted the urgency of the need for additional Sixth Form facilities on-site. “The difficulty is that this is the last of our small Sixth Forms,” he said.
“Our current Year 13 numbers over 60, and they will be moving into Year 14 next year. “Next year, we will have about 125 to 130 Sixth Formers, and I have already turned a Sixth Form common room into another classroom this year, because we don’t have classrooms. “So, something is going to have to be done; money is going to have to be found somewhere along the line this year. “The last thing I want to do is turn the very last common room my Sixth Formers have into another classroom, because they have nowhere else to go.”
Mr Coert added that it was “very positive for the community” that “the school is booming”, though stressed that “we need classrooms, as we need toilets”. When contacted for comment on the two planning applications, an EA spokesperson said: “These projects are currently paused, due to budget constraints across the education sector in 2023/24. “The EA is awaiting the budget allocation for 2024/25 before decisions regarding capital work projects can be made.” She also advised that the EA is “facing an unprecedented funding gap in 2023/24 of over £200m, and have been warning of the impact this will have on core services and, ultimately, on our children and young people”.