The Flax Trust

The Educational Centre

1          Statement of Change of Direction.

In 2005 the economic situation on Northern Ireland had very much improved.  People could move out of their own areas to seek employment without fear of assassination.  The economic work of the Flax Trust at a local level had been completed when there were more jobs than there were people to fill them.  The economy began to import labour from Eastern Europe.

One of the effects of the ‘troubles’ was a deterioration of education standards in the local community.  The combination of frequent rioting, fathers and older brothers in Long Kesh and the ongoing presence from IRA, British Army and Loyalist Paramilitaries undermined the work of the local schools.  It is now past time to reorganise and modernise the local education system.  The present schools are old and unfit for purpose.  The local Task Force Group made up of community representatives, local principals, representatives of Boards of Governors, with the support of the Flax Trust, are seeking to transform the local education system with new schools, new systems and new ambitions.

2          Education Village Endowment

The Department of Education and the Catholic Bishops in Northern Ireland have both admitted that the education system which they both supported over the last 40 years is seriously flawed.  To have an education system which favoured the 20% of academically inclined students while neglecting the other 80% who might be vocationally minded was unfair and perhaps unjust.

Both the Department of Education, ie Government and the Bishops are now seeking a fairer system which will benefit those of academic inclination but will not in any way undermine or fail to appreciate the majority of children who may be vocationally inclined.  This means that the Department of Education and the Bishops are seeking to put in place all ability schools at Secondary level.  Given the opportunity presented by this new approach of the Department and the Bishops, the Education Task Force with the support of the Flax Trust now seeks to create in North Belfast an Education Village which will fairly and justly cater for all children in its North Belfast bailiwick.

The Education village will be developed on two sites on either side of the Crumlin road which is a main arterial route into the city centre.  The two sites will be developed as one campus catering for children from ages 3 to 19 and for adults a Step-Up college preparing mature students for third level education.

The Education Village Campus has three elements.  On one side of the Crumlin Road, a facility to cater for 3 to 11 years old: on the other side of the road a facility to cater for 11 to 19 year olds.  On this side of the road there will also be a facility which caters for mature students who wish to advance to third level education.

The first element for 3 to 11 year olds will also cater for nursery school children and include dental and health service provision.  The expected attendance at this facility will be in the region of 600 children.  This will be a Catholic School but available to other religions.

On the other side of the road will be the provision for 11 to 19 year olds.  This facility will be a place of excellent high quality education for all abilities building on the academic, vocational and pastoral care strengths of existing separate schools which have passed their sell by date.   This will be a Catholic School but available to other religions.

This post primary school, because of its Television and Radio studios, will be a hub for all the schools in North Belfast, teaching language, music and media studies.

3          Interim Ongoing Education Support.

The third element of the Education Village is dedicated to adults who missed the chance of a third level education either at University or Metropolitian College.  This facility will be available to both communities and attached to third level colleges.

The estimated cost of the Education Village is £18 million.  The Flax Trust endowment will be for £10 million.

Over the last 2 years the Flax Trust has grant aided local education projects to the amount of £1.089m.