Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Stormont must not neglect our schools

Our story in today's newspaper reveals the magnitude of the maintenance backlog in schools of almost £300million. Up to a third of this is needed for essential work, and the backlog also raises health and safety concerns.

According to one teaching union, some rundown school buildings are costing more to maintain than it would take to replace them.

The plight of two schools highlights the extent of the problem. The primary school Bunscoil Bheann Mhadagain in the Irish-speaking community in North Belfast is in such a bad state that a recent Education and Training Inspectorate report underlined that the accommodation "falls far short of acceptable standards."

The Tor Bank Special School in Dundonald has to make do with one main building and nine mobile classrooms, and it is still waiting for a new build some eight years after the Department of Education announced that relevant funding would be provided.

Tor Bank may still be one of the fortunate schools to enjoy new buildings by the end of 2012, but the Principal Colm Davis underlines the apprehension that maintenance by the authorities seems a lower priority, once a new building is scheduled.

This overall picture of crumbling disrepair is incomprehensible, particularly after a period when the Labour Government claimed to have spent so much on education.

The position seems further threatened by the impending Tory and Lib-Dem cuts, which are being passed on to Stormont. The education authorities have a thankless task in balancing priorities and needs, but a neglect of school buildings also impacts on our children and, by implication, on our future as a society.

If we continue to devalue our education by providing such poor facilities, we will all lose in the long run.

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