£23m for school building projects
An extra £23 million to be spent on building new schools and repairing others is a major boost to the construction industry, business leaders have claimed.
Sinn Fein education minister Caitriona Ruane confirmed she received £13 million for her schools building programme under a reallocation of unspent Assembly funds while a further £10 million has been found to tackle the maintenance backlog in schools.
The Construction Employers Federation (CEF) welcomed the announcement and said that while it will boost the education sector, it will also have wider economic benefits.
CEF managing director John Armstrong said: "It will provide much-needed work for the construction industry in these difficult times for our economy and will help to sustain employment, but it will also help to enhance the learning facilities for school children throughout Northern Ireland.
"Every £1 invested in construction generates £2.84 in economic activity. Pound for pound, the taxpayer could not get better value for money than this sort of investment."
The largest school projects to get approval are at Strathearn Grammar in Belfast and Bangor Grammar.
The minister said the additional funding will help get projects off the ground and will boost her long-term spending plans, making progress on 14 schools projects with minor works carried out in many others.
Ms Ruane said: "We are able to allocate almost £8.5 million for work to start on 13 new schools and the site acquisition for another. In addition, around £4.5 million will be provided for minor works projects across the schools estate.
"This essential work will address statutory and health and safety issues and help maintain the fabric of the buildings.
"These schools projects range in scale from £1.5 million for St Joseph's Primary School, Madden, to £17.4 million for Bangor Grammar over the next four years."