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Investment in 18 local schools

25 June, 2012 - by John O'Dowd

Eighteen schools across the north will receive new facilities as part of a £173million investment in the schools estate.

Education Minister, John O’Dowd, made the announcement today as he addressed the Assembly on the future of his capital programme.

Speaking, after unveiling the list of new builds, Mr O’Dowd said: “Since taking on the role of Minister for Education I have visited schools in each and every sector of education provision. The common factor across the estate has been the clear need for considerable investment in infrastructure.

“The need for investment far exceeds the funding available. While I would like to be in a position to fund everything that needs doing now, I must work within the budget available. This means difficult decisions on future investment plans.

“The area planning process currently being undertaken will determine the future pattern of provision in each area. It is estimated that it will be the final quarter of the current financial year, however, before the first plans are formally adopted. It is clear, therefore, that decisions are needed now to influence capital expenditure in the next two financial years, therefore I have decided to move forward immediately with 13 new school builds in the primary and post-primary sectors.

“These schools come from right across the north and were identified as the highest priority projects following a rigorous selection process.

“Furthermore, I am particularly aware of the need to ensure we support the most vulnerable in our education system.

“No-one visiting our special schools could remain unmoved by the needs of the children attending these facilities. I would dearly like to be able to advance every deserving case immediately. However, within the limits of the funding available to me, I am determined that we make progress with a number of cases at this time.

“I am therefore today announcing that the process for building three special schools will be advanced. In addition, I can announce that the preferred option for the former Balmoral High School Facility is that St. Gerard’s Resource Centre in West Belfast will be the long-term tenant. Furthermore, Arvalee Special School in Omagh will be taken forward as part of the Lisanelly Campus project.

“This will be good news for the pupils and communities directly affected. A world-class educational environment will help us deliver the improvements in educational outcomes we are working so hard to achieve.”

In addition to plans for St Gerard’s Resource Centre and Arvalee Special School, the list of projects to proceed is as follows:

  • Coláiste Feirste, Belfast - £11.9million

  • St Clare’s Convent & St Colman’s Abbey Primary School, Newry - £6million

  • St Joseph’s Convent Primary School, Newry - £5.8million

  • Dromore Central Primary School - £11.4million

  • Eglinton Primary School - £2.5million

  • Tannaghmore Primary School, Lurgan - £6million

  • Ebrington Controlled Primary School, Derry - £4.5million

  • Foyle College, Derry - £19.6million

  • St Teresa’s Primary School, Lurgan - £3million

  • Victoria Park Primary School, Belfast - £4.9million

  • Enniskillen Model Primary School - £5.7million

  • St Mary’s Primary School, Banbridge - £5.1million

  • Bunscoil Bheann Mhadagáin, Belfast - £2.5million

  • Belmont House Special School, Derry - £7.4million

  • Rossmar Special School, Limavady - £6.4million

  • Castletower, Ballymena - £21.8million

Alongside the immediate commencement of these new builds, Mr O’Dowd announced funding to progress a number of additional projects through the planning process. This will enable projects to reach a stage of planning that will allow building work to commence more quickly when future funding becomes available. In the autumn the Minister will unveil a further list of projects to be taken forward.

The Minister also announced the establishment of a new Schools Enhancement Programme. This programme will make available funding of up to £4million for any individual project which is aimed at refurbishing or extending existing schools. Priority will be given to projects aimed at supporting amalgamation or rationalisation. Initially up to £20 million will be available for this programme in 2013-14 with the option of increasing this in 2014-15 depending on the number and quality of proposals.

In conclusion, the Minister said: “This is a pragmatic approach to ensuring that the capital funding available can be used most effectively. I want to stress that today’s announcement in no way implies that other projects will not be considered at a later stage.

“I realise that for every school announced as progressing at this time there are many more which need investment. The budget settlement the Executive was presented with has limited the funding I have available and has prevented me from progressing all the schemes I would have liked.

“For those schools not announced at this time, however, the new enhancement programme offers an opportunity to add to and improve existing facilities. This may prove a more accessible option.

“I have taken clear and decisive action to ensure that we effectively use the capital available in the next number of years and ensure we can maximise the benefits for children across the north.”

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