Minister `committed' to shared education campus drive

John O'Dowd remains "committed" to delivering 10 shared education campuses
John O'Dowd remains "committed" to delivering 10 shared education campuses John O'Dowd remains "committed" to delivering 10 shared education campuses

Education minister John O'Dowd remains "committed" to building 10 shared education campuses across the north.

The ambitious scheme appears to be in jeopardy after losing a large chunk of earmarked funding.

The deal to resolve the Stormont crisis will see cash due to be pumped into projects involving schools from different communities used instead to support shared housing.

Little progress has been made since the campuses idea was first announced two years ago - just three projects have been approved.

While work has begun to bring six schools together on a single site in Omagh, the Strule project operates outside the shared campus initiative.

The Department of Education said site work was yet to begin on the three projects so far approved to progress in planning. The costs of each will not be known until the approval of economic appraisals, however, estimated costs are £32.5 million.

A plan for separate Catholic and state schools in Moy to share a single new building but retain separate uniforms, teachers and governance, will cost £5m. A further £6.5m will be spent on a shared scheme in Limavady while the most expensive project is estimated at £21m and will involve schools in Ballycastle.

A total of 16 projects involving more than 50 schools were competing for funding following the first call for expressions of interest last year. The second call generated a further six applications involving about 20 schools.

It was expected that further schemes would be given the green light in the autumn, but schools who bid for funding are still waiting to be told yes or no.

"These applications are being considered and the minister will announce his decision in due course," a department spokeswoman said.

"The minister is committed to the T:BUC (Together: Building a United Community) strategy headline action to commence 10 shared education campus projects by 2018 and securing the required funding to deliver on this action. Department of Education officials will progress discussions on funding requirements with OFMDFM and DFP officials."