Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

Schools face wait on new buildings

Northern Ireland Minister Caitriona Ruane
Northern Ireland Minister Caitriona Ruane

Schools hoping for new buildings face an anxious wait after Education Minister Caitriona Ruane said she needs more money from the Executive to fund new work.

The Sinn Fein minister told the Assembly that 39 new schools have been built since May 2007 and 13 more will be completed in the near future.

But while a review, which included 67 projects for new schools or major improvements, showed most meet the criteria, Ms Ruane said she did not have the money to proceed.

The minister said she will write to all the schools involved, but said her hopes of building a further 10 schools depended on securing additional funding from Finance Minister Sammy Wilson when Assembly finances are reviewed in the so-called June monitoring round.

"If these additional funds are not allocated to the Department of Education for capital build projects then I fear that a delay on commencing these schools for some months is inevitable," she told the Assembly.

"We simply cannot build schools without the money. Many teachers, parents, pupils and governors will be disappointed at this delay. I share that disappointment.

"To state the obvious - the rate at which the department can build new schools is totally dependant on the available resources. However my department's budget has been reduced significantly. I now face a very challenging position regarding investment in the schools' estate.

"My department has a net capital budget for 2010-11 of £169 million, which is over £84 million lower in real terms than 2009-10. This includes a cut of £22m made to address increased public expenditure pressures facing the Executive."

Many MLAs said they were deeply disappointed by the statement and sought further information on which schools could expect to have their long-awaited projects delayed.

Assembly members reported how schools in various constituencies were forced to use sub-standard buildings. The minister said some projects could benefit from further discussions which might allow, for example, co-operation between schools.

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