Funding boosts for local schools
FOYLE and Londonderry’s long-awaited move to the Waterside is finally in sight, after £19.6m was pledged to make its migration across the river Foyle a reality.
There was also good news for a number of other North West schools awaiting funds for newbuild projects: Ebrington Controlled Primary School will get £4.5million; Belmont House Special School receives £7.4million; Rossmar Special School, Limavady, £6.4million; Eglinton Primary School, £2.5million.
Eighteen schools across Northern Ireland will receive new facilities as part of a £173million investment in the schools estate.
Education Minister, John O’Dowd, made the announcement as he addressed the Assembly on the future of his capital programme.
Speaking, after unveiling the list of new builds, Mr O’Dowd said: “Since taking on the role of Minister for Education I have visited schools in each and every sector of education provision. The common factor across the estate has been the clear need for considerable investment in infrastructure.
“The need for investment far exceeds the funding available. While I would like to be in a position to fund everything that needs doing now, I must work within the budget available. This means difficult decisions on future investment plans.
“The area planning process currently being undertaken will determine the future pattern of provision in each area. It is estimated that it will be the final quarter of the current financial year, however, before the first plans are formally adopted. It is clear, therefore, that decisions are needed now to influence capital expenditure in the next two financial years, therefore I have decided to move forward immediately with 13 new school builds in the primary and post-primary sectors.
“These schools come from right across the north and were identified as the highest priority projects following a rigorous selection process.
“Furthermore, I am particularly aware of the need to ensure we support the most vulnerable in our education system.
“No-one visiting our special schools could remain unmoved by the needs of the children attending these facilities. I would dearly like to be able to advance every deserving case immediately. However, within the limits of the funding available to me, I am determined that we make progress with a number of cases at this time.
Alongside the immediate commencement of these new builds, Mr O’Dowd announced funding to progress a number of additional projects through the planning process. This will enable projects to reach a stage of planning that will allow building work to commence more quickly when future funding becomes available. In the autumn the Minister will unveil a further list of projects to be taken forward.
The Minister also announced the establishment of a new Schools Enhancement Programme. This programme will make available funding of up to £4million for any individual project which is aimed at refurbishing or extending existing schools. Priority will be given to projects aimed at supporting amalgamation or rationalisation. Initially up to £20 million will be available for this programme in 2013-14 with the option of increasing this in 2014-15 depending on the number and quality of proposals.
In conclusion, the Minister said: “This is a pragmatic approach to ensuring that the capital funding available can be used most effectively. I want to stress that today’s announcement in no way implies that other projects will not be considered at a later stage.”
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Weather for Londonderry
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 6 C to 9 C
Wind Speed: 28 mph
Wind direction: North