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Green light for £35m programme of improvements at dozen schools in Northern Ireland

By Allan Preston

Published 12/02/2016

Education Minister John O'Dowd
Education Minister John O'Dowd

The Education Minister has given the go-ahead to a £35m scheme of improvements to 12 schools across Northern Ireland.

As part of the School Enhancement Programme, between £500,000 and £4m has been awarded to schools where a new build is not possible but immediate improvements can be made.

Three schools - Methody College and Strandtown Primary in Belfast and St Louis in Ballymena - have each received the maximum amount of £4m.

Education Minister John O'Dowd said: "This £35m investment is an investment in the future of our young people. The improved accommodation will provide better facilities for young people to learn in and an improved working environment for all the school staff. "

Mr O'Dowd said the announcement was made possible by an increase of £46.9m in the Department of Education's capital budget. Construction at the 12 sites is due to begin in 2016-17. To date, 34 school enhancement projects have been completed or are currently under construction.

DUP MLA and education committee chair Peter Weir said the announcement was good news.

"Any school enhancement is to be welcomed," he said. "This is a positive step forward.

"There are a lot of schools competing for that money, so there will be disappointment as well. The other issue is that sometimes we see announcements over capital spends and there has perhaps then been a slowness in delivery. I think we need to ensure any programme moves ahead quickly."

Mr Weir also told how he hoped further funding would be announced later this year.

"The minister has not yet revealed the breakdown of the overall education capital budget - just under £200m - which will be split on enhancements, new builds and minor works.

"I would like to see an equitable spread for schools across Northern Ireland."

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