£292m: the huge bill for patching up our schools
The maintenance backlog in Northern Ireland’s school buildings currently stands at a massive £900 per pupil, according to a new report.
The Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) examined school design and delivery across the province and has highlighted the overall maintenance backlog of £292m across the schools’ estate.
“The legacy of this is an estate that is not ideally suited to deliver the current curriculum and the condition of many buildings makes them costly to maintain,” the report stated.
The report to the Northern Ireland Assembly by the Comptroller and Auditor General Kieran Donnelly also reviewed the robustness of the Department of Education’s strategic planning and management of the school estate in Northern Ireland.
It also criticised the number of costly empty seats in the education system.
In the period from 2003-04 to 2008-09, school closures and rationalisation proposals reduced the number of schools by 75.
However, despite this, surplus capacity in 2008-09 was estimated at 54,000 places, an increase from an estimated 35,000 in 1999-2000.
The Education Minister announced earlier this month that 14 school capital building projects — 10 of them in the Catholic and Irish-medium sectors — will benefit from an additional £13m to be invested in delayed school capital building projects.
However, this will only put a small dent in the £500m total backlog of capital work.
A further £10m was found for maintenance.