Local schools to benefit from additional £134 million funding

March 24, 2014

Four local schools are set to benefit from a £134 million School Enhancement Programme announced by Education Minister, John O’Dowd, last week.

Killean Primary School in south Armagh and three Newry schools, Our Lady’s Grammar, Sacred Heart Grammar and Rathore Special School have all now been approved for refurbishment or extension of their school buildings. The schools are among 51 schools across Northern Ireland who will benefit from the enhancement project.

The School Enhancement Programme, which was established in January 2013, is designed to enable the refurbishment or extension of school buildings. In October the Department of Education announced which schools had been successful in the initial application process. However, each project was then subject to an Economic Appraisal before final approval could be given. That approval has now been granted.

The investment is worth a potential £134million and will ensure the schools benefit from refurbishment or extension projects, each valued between £500,000 and £4million.

Announcing the schools approved for the project, the Minister said: “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. Since taking up my post I have given approval to proceed with 40 new school-build projects representing an investment in the region of £350million.

“However, I have previously made it clear that the limited capital budget available means that we also need to do more with the existing estate. That is why I established the Schools Enhancement Programme with a view to refurbishing and extending some of our school buildings.

“I am pleased to announce that 51 projects have now received the necessary approvals and am recommending that design work on all of the projects commences immediately.

“It is good news for the pupils, staff and wider communities of the schools due to benefit from this significant investment and will be welcomed as a much needed boost to the construction sector over the coming years.”

The additional funding has also been welcomed by Sinn Féin representatives Megan Fearon MLA and Councillor Liz Kimmins who said it will not only help develop the school estate but will also act as an injection of confidence into the local construction industry.

Welcoming O’Dowd’s announcement, Ms Fearon said,

“Since taking on the portfolio of Education, Sinn Féin has targeted money to improving the school estate and this announcement is another sign of the commitment in transforming every sustainable school into a place fit for educating our children in the 21st century.

“Not only will it help improve the school estate but it will also give the local construction industry a boost as it has suffered severely in the recession.”

Fathom councillor Liz Kimmins said the schemes represent a “substantial investment in our local schools” and added,

“Sinn Féin is committed to ensuring that every school is a good school and that all children, irrespective of background have the best learning experience possible.  I commend Minister John O’Dowd on his announcement.”