A series of delayed school maintenance projects are set to get the green light as part of a £72 million reallocation of funds in the Education Department.
Youth services and after-school programmes in deprived areas will also be boosted in the redirection of funding announced by Education Minister John O'Dowd. In addition, Mr O'Dowd said he would be steering more money toward the budget for free school meals and uniform subsidies to help hard-pressed families.
The minister said an internal review of his budget had identified the £72 million from areas where efficiencies could be made. He told the Assembly he was reallocating it to priority areas.
"Education continues to face tough financial challenges," he said.
"As minister, I must ensure that the funding available is used in the most effective manner. The internal review of budgets I commissioned last year has been completed and has identified savings which I am re-investing in front-line education and youth services."
A total of £27 million will be spent on school maintenance projects. A further £13 million has been directed to early years learning, £3.6 million to after-school programmes, £5 million on youth services and £3.9 million to free school meals and uniform subsidies.
In terms of savings, the minister only outlined a few of the areas that had been targeted. About £3 million will be found by making efficiencies in the exam body CCEA (Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment) and £1 million will be realised from the Entitlement Framework budget, which is spent offering more post-16 subjects.
The minister will outline all the areas where money had been sourced to the Education Committee at a future meeting.
"The maintenance backlog in schools remains significant," said Mr O'Dowd.
"It is time that serious inroads are made in this area as a failure to do so now will only compound the problem. That is why I am announcing a ring fenced allocation of £27 million in 2012-13 to help address this critical issue. This will be welcome news for the beleaguered construction industry."