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£27m extra funding to help tackle crumbling schools

Northern Ireland’s crumbling schools estate is to receive a £27m cash injection.

The much-needed money — plus another £45m — has been found following an internal review of the Department of Education’s budget, Assembly Members were told yesterday.

However, it is less than 10% of the £300m needed to bring our 1,200 schools up to standard — many of which are failing to meet health and safety regulations.

Speaking in the Assembly yesterday, Education Minister John O’Dowd (below) said: “The maintenance backlog in schools remains significant. 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 £27m in 2012/13 to help address this critical issue.”

Urgent repair work will get under way in schools in July.

He added: “There will be winners and losers within this.”

He also revealed he will soon publish a list of schools to be given the green light for new builds.

But the department has £653m less to spend on capital projects than was anticipated in the 2008 investment strategy, which covered the period up to 2018.

“I do not have the capital resources available to fulfil the demand out there,” he told North Belfast MLA William Humphrey.

The remaining £45m, the result of spending reallocations and efficiency savings, will be targeted at frontline services.

These include £3.9m over the next three years to provide uniform grants and free school meals.

Mr O'Dowd said: “Today's allocations have only been made possible by my efforts to drive out inefficiencies and reduce bureaucracy.

“Despite these further allocations from within my own budget, I will continue at every available opportunity to seek increased funding.”

What now?

Where the money is going over the next three years:

  • £3.6m to increase funding for the Extended Schools programme
  • £5m to Youth Services
  • £1.5m for Area Learning Communities
  • £1.5m for governors training
  • £18m for special schools
  • £2.2m for appropriate signage and lighting
  • £1.5m to a Belfast project tackling disadvantage

Belfast Telegraph