£40 million investment in schools approved
SCHOOLS are to benefit from a multi-million-pound scheme designed to provide much-needed building work.
A total of sixteen schools will share £40 million released through the School Enhancement Programme (SEP).
The SEP is designed to benefit those who need substantial work that falls short of a new build.
The reduced capital budget available to the Department of Education means there can no longer be a presumption of a new building in every case where investment is needed.
Funding of between £500,000 and £5m is available through the SEP for smaller scale works including refurbishments or extensions.
St Bride's PS in south Belfast and St Joseph's PS in the east of the city are among those to benefit.
It is not yet known how much each individual project is worth.
Department Permanent Secretary Derek Baker described the £40m as significant.
"The School Enhancement Programme continues to provide much-needed improvements and new accommodation for the benefit of our young people and staff," he said.
"Continued investment in our schools estate is essential if we are to help support our teaching staff to deliver a quality education to our children and young people."
The Controlled Schools' Support Council (CSSC) welcomed the boost.
"Investment in the schools' estate is essential to support high quality education for all pupils and CSSC very much welcomes that £40m is to be made available to these 16 projects, including eight controlled schools," Chief Executive Barry Mulholland said.
"The School Enhancement Programme is a cost effective way to enable schools to improve their facilities.
"While this £40m investment is good news, current levels of capital funding continue to be insufficient to support much needed improvements to other schools in Northern Ireland."
Mr Mulholland added that the overall budget available had resulted in insufficient funding for minor works, new build and school enhancement programmes, compounding the pressure on the schools' estate.
"While CSSC acknowledges that finance for education is finite, the reality is that Northern Ireland's education system requires significant investment after year on year decreases to school budgets in real terms; if there is insufficient investment in the education system, then Northern Ireland’s future is bleak," he said.
Transformation of the system, he added, was recognised as a way to reduce education spend.
"In this context, a comprehensive transformation plan needs to be mapped out, with input from key stakeholders, along with the required investment in the short, medium and long term being identified to enable transformation to be effective," Mr Mulholland said.
Fairview PS, Ballyclare
Glengormley CI PS
St Bride's PS, Belfast
St Joseph's PS, Belfast
St Mary's PS, Newtownbutler
The Thompson PS, Ballyrobert
Dominican College, Portstewart
Methodist College, Belfast
St Columbanus' College, Bangor
St Mary's Christian Brothers' GS, Belfast
St Patrick's & St Brigid’s College, Claudy
Kilronan School, Magherafelt
Lisanally School, Armagh