Education news

Rising cost of Omagh shared school campus sparks concern

The planned Strule shared education campus in Co Tyrone

A SHARED schools campus where costs are rising is at risk of turning into "another Desertcreat", it has been claimed.

The Strule Shared Education Campus in Omagh will involve six schools and is due to be complete by 2020.

The Irish News revealed this week that it will cost almost £60 million more than first estimated, however.

The co-location of schools in the town is intended to increase opportunities for collaboration and sharing of facilities, with a mix of grammar, non-grammar, Catholic, state and special schools occupying 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 barracks at Lisanelly would be about £100m.

Responding to questions at the assembly education committee in June this year, Department of Education officials said it would be closer to £140m.

Just six months later, the department has said the latest estimated cost is £159m.

It is understood a third of all capital funds in education will now be tied up in the Omagh scheme, leaving other schools across the north competing for the remaining cash.

Ulster Unionist assembly member Sandra Overend, a member of the education committee, last night expressed concern.

She warned of similarities between Strule and the planned joint training college for Northern Ireland's police, fire and prison services at Desertcreat, near Cookstown in Co Tyrone.

"Time and time again we are seeing the inability of the Executive to deliver on capital projects on time, within budget or at all," Ms Overend said.

"Based on the delivery of the project so far, I fear that this could turn into another Desertcreat where budgets were overrun, timings overshot and the delivery was far from what was originally approved.

"Not a single penny of taxpayer money should be spent without proper oversight."

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