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Reprieve for NI grammar school over £400k debt

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Foyle College.

Foyle College.

Foyle College.

A Londonderry grammar school has been granted an additional 12 months to repay a £400k debt owed to the Department of Education.

The school risks losing its voluntary grammar status and independence if the money is not repaid.

Last week, the Belfast Telegraph revealed that Foyle College still had to pay almost half of a previously reported £821k shortfall with a deadline looming of October 30, 2021.

That deadline had already been extended from June 30 of this year.

The Department of Education has again agreed an extension until the end of October next year.

The money was owed for the school’s move to a new-build campus. It has so far repaid half.

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In a letter to past pupils earlier this year the school outlined the financial predicament it faced and appealed to alumni and friends of the school to contribute.

It was signed by principal, Mr Patrick Allen, chair of the board of governors, Mr Gavin Killeen and chair of the former pupils’ association, Mr Donald Bigger.

Foyle College is a co-educational voluntary grammar school which has been educating young people in Derry and the surrounding area for over 400 years.

In 2018 the historic school relocated 850 pupils from the Cityside to a new state-of-the-art campus in the Waterside area.

At that time the school invested heavily in facilities to ensure that its pupils received a “first-class education”. The Department of Education purchased the site and building.

However, to allow pupils to attain the academic, athletic and artistic standards it has set, the local college invested in additional facilities including sports pitches with floodlighting for winter and evenings, changing facilities, a large assembly hall to host concerts, widened corridors for ease of movement and extra classrooms.

These enhanced facilities came at a cost of £2.4million.

Around £1m of that cost was covered by a fundraiser while the school awaited the final figures for the sale of its former campuses.

The department sold the original lands for £3.4m.

According to Foyle College, the department retained £2.8m of that for grants it previously awarded to the old school sites.

That meant £600,000 was available to the school, leaving a deficit of £821k, which has since been reduced to £400k.

In correspondence with alumni and friends of the school, the college said the department’s figures were based on “clawing back” money that has been spent on a school prior to its new build.

It read: “Because the school has received grants from DE over the past 50 years to fund capital items at Springtown and Duncreggan, legislation provides that DE claw back a proportion of these grants against any sale proceeds from land owned by the school.”

Foyle College has been contacted for comment.


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