Northern Ireland

Methodist College: Belfast prep school announces plans to close one of its sites amid falling pupil numbers

Fullerton House is one of the two prep departments of Methodist College Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell
It is proposed that all pupils will attend the Fullerton House Preparatory School, PICTURE: HUGH RUSSELL

A leading Belfast prep school has announced plans to close one its sites amid falling pupil numbers.

Downey House Preparatory School, one of two prep departments of Methodist College, will “discontinue” from September this year, according to a development proposal published.

It is suggested that pupils who attend the Pirrie Park site in east Belfast will move to Fullerton House Preparatory School, Methody’s other prep site on the Malone Road in the south of the city.

The School House at Methodist College, which took the heritage award.
Methodist College currently operates two preparatory school sites in Belfast

Figures show that over the past seven years, enrolment at Downey House has declined from 123 pupils in September 2015 to 49 pupils in September 2023.

The Fullerton House enrolment numbers also fell over the same seven-year period.

In November 2022, the board of governors of Methodist College agreed to “propose the move to a single site for the preparatory department, including its pre-school” with the single site to be based at Fullerton House.

Following the move, it will become known as Methodist College Preparatory Department.

The board of governors stress “the proposal is not to close the preparatory department at Methodist College, but rather to take action to ensure that such a situation does not arise”.

“Therefore, the proposal is for consolidation of preparatory education at Methodist College Belfast through the closure of Downey House Preparatory School.”

The proposal also seeks to address concerns raised about the “sustainability of preparatory education at Methodist College Belfast which arise from the current structure of having two separate sites for the preparatory department, each of which seeks to maintain a seven-class structure (one class for each primary year group)”.

“These risks have both educational and financial dimensions,” it states.

“It is the increasingly challenging nature of these risks which have led the board of governors to examine a range of options, ultimately giving rise to the proposal to consolidate preparatory provision at one site.”

It added that the board of governors “believe that consolidating preparatory provision on a single site at the Malone Road campus will improve the educational opportunities and experience for all pupils and will facilitate sustainable and continued provision”.