Northern Ireland

Bloomfield Collegiate School requests status change

An east Belfast school has said it wants to change from being a trustee-run voluntary school to a controlled grammar school run by the education and library board.

It would be the first NI grammar school to give up its voluntary status.

However, Bloomfield Collegiate School said its financial plight meant that it was its only option.

It already has a deficit of £120,000, but its principal said it was in danger of running up a deficit of £250,000.

Image caption Principal Darrin Barr said he believed the school would not lose much of its autonomy

The girls school was opened more than 100 years ago and currently educates about 700 girls.

The school said it faced rising costs and a shortage of funding, and its decision would be a way to secure its long-term future.

Principal Darrin Barr says the alternative might have been to close the school altogether.

It is a relatively small school and it has to pay for many services from its own budget, such as legal, human resources, insurance and health and safety.

In future, those costs will be the responsibility of the Belfast Education and Library Board.

However, Dr Barr said the experience of other controlled grammar schools suggests Bloomfield would not lose much of its autonomy.

Parents have been assured that the quality of education will not be damaged.

There are three times more voluntary grammars than controlled ones, and this is the first time the Department of Education has been asked to allow one to change the way it is funded and governed.

The department confirmed it was working closely with the school to make the change.

Stormont Education Minister John O'Dowd said: "The educational welfare of all the pupils at the school is uppermost in our thoughts."

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