Building projects at 16 Northern Ireland schools finally go ahead after £40m funding released
Sixteen schools can push ahead with building projects after Stormont revealed a £40m investment.
Officials revealed successful applicants in the latest phase of the School Enhancement Programme, which supports refurbishment or extension projects valued between £500,000 and £4m.
The successful schools are Antrim Primary School; Ballyclare Primary School; Dungannon Primary School; Fairview Primary School, Ballyclare; Glengormley CI Primary School; St Brides Primary School, Belfast; St Joseph's Primary School, Belfast; St Mary's Primary School, Newtownbutler; The Thompson Primary School, Ballyrobert; Dominican College, Portstewart; Methodist College, Belfast; St Columbanus' College, Bangor; St Mary's Christian Brothers' GS, Belfast, and St Patrick's & St Brigid's College, Claudy.
Two special schools - Kilronan School in Magherafelt and Lisanally School in Armagh - have also been selected.
Department of Education permanent secretary Derek Baker said: "This is a significant investment in our schools estate with a further 16 projects now progressing to planning stage.
"The School Enhancement Programme continues to provide much-needed improvements and new accommodation for the benefit of our young people and staff. Continued investment in our schools estate is essential if we are to help support our teaching staff to deliver a quality education to our children and young people."
Former DUP education minister Peter Weir welcomed the funding, adding that there was a real need for investment in the fabric of our schools "as well as the other running costs which are currently under severe pressure".
The North Down MLA stated all parties should have the restoration of devolution in Northern Ireland as a top priority.
"The DUP wants to see devolution restored immediately, but we will also continue to ensure that Northern Ireland's voice is heard at Westminster," he said.
"It would be best for our pupils, teachers and schools if in the future such announcements could be guided by a minister, working with Executive colleagues to ensure that the real priorities of our society are being addressed.
"However, it is right that Sinn Fein's boycott of devolved government should not prevent or hold up important announcements such as this."
Ulster Unionist education spokesperson Rosemary Barton MLA said the announcement would come as "major relief" to the successful schools, but said that the state of many school buildings was "frankly outrageous".
"Some schools that have closed or merged in the last two decades on the basis of promised new-builds are still waiting and as a result young people are being taught in premises that are far too small and simply not fit for purpose," she said.
"Urgent attention must now be given to those schools."
Controlled Schools' Support Council chief executive Barry Mulholland said: "While this £40m investment is good news, current levels of capital funding continue to be insufficient to support much needed improvements to other schools in Northern Ireland."
He called for a comprehensive transformation plan to be mapped out with input from all stakeholders "along with the required investment in the short, medium and long-term".