£140m for stalled shared education campus
FRESH life has been breathed into a stalled shared education campus with the allocation of £140 million.
Secretary of State Karen Bradley announced the cash to support the Strule Shared Education Campus Project in Omagh.
In February, the Department of Education suspended the procurement process for the biggest school building project in the north.
It will involve six schools and was due to be complete by 2020.
The co-location of schools in the town is intended to increase opportunities for collaboration and sharing of facilities.
A mix of grammar, non-grammar, Catholic, state and special schools will occupy the site.
So far, just one has opened - Arvalee School and Resource Centre - which was built for £8.2m.
Initial projections, provided at the very early stages of planning, estimated that the project to convert the former barracks at Lisanelly would be about £100m.
It is now expected to cost considerably more.
Speaking during a visit to the site yesterday, Ms Bradley said the allocation of £140m would help bring together 4,200 pupils from all backgrounds and enable them to interact and learn together on a vibrant and dynamic campus.
"The government wants everyone in the UK to have the opportunity to go so far as their talent and hard work will allow, on the basis of merit and not privilege. And in pursuit of this goal it is our ambition that every child, irrespective of their background, can benefit from a world-class education," she said.
"The funding the UK Government is releasing will provide much optimism for the future development of integrated and shared education in Northern Ireland which will contribute positively to the overall education approach."
Education alone, she added, would not provide children with the solutions that were needed to address the legacy of division and separation in Northern Ireland.
And while she said education attainment in the north is among the highest in the UK, there are also more children in Northern Ireland leaving school with no qualifications than elsewhere.
"Northern Ireland needs a restored executive up and running again with local ministers in post to lead NI into a better future. People want their politicians working to deliver and drive the transformation across the education sector and wider public services," Ms Bradley said.
"The public in Northern Ireland want and deserve better and that is why the restoration of the executive will remain my top priority."