Sixteen schools to share £40m improvement package

By Robbie Meredith
BBC News NI Education Correspondent

  • Published
Desks in a classroomImage source, Getty Images

Sixteen schools across Northern Ireland are to receive building improvements worth about £40m.

However work on them will be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Education Minister Peter Weir announced the improvements to be funded under the school enhancement programme (SEP).

Mr Weir also told assembly members at Stormont that the Department of Education was in a "difficult position" providing income to substitute teachers.

The SEP provides for new school buildings worth between £500,000 and £4m.

Four post-primary schools, 10 primary schools and two special schools are the latest to benefit from the scheme.

It provides money for parts of schools to be rebuilt rather than entire new school buildings.

For instance, new teaching blocks to replace mobile classrooms or the refurbishment of sub-standard facilities.

However Mr Weir said construction may not be able to begin on any of the schools for a number of years.

Design teams will not be able to begin drawing up detailed plans for the work until the 2020-21 financial year.

"We're talking probably four years ahead before there'd be the direct boots on the ground of construction," the minister told MLAs.

"This is about ultimately trying to give certainty to those schools."

Mr Weir was also asked by the Alliance Party MLA Chris Lyttle about the hardship faced by substitute teachers.

Around 3800 have lost work and pay, as schools are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The department has asked the executive for around £12m for a scheme to provide substitute teachers with a salary until the end of the current school year.

How much they receive is expected to be based on their previous level of income from January to March 2020.

"I would like to bring this as quickly as possible to a conclusion," Mr Weir said.

"The problem is if I brought it to a conclusion immediately without any level of assistance from outside it would be a smaller package and a smaller level of support."

Subsequently, 165 schools applied for building improvements.

Today's announcement means that work at 74 schools in total will be carried out through the programme.

The latest 16 schools to receive funding through SEP are:

Christian Brothers' Primary School, Armagh

Greenisland Primary School, Carrickfergus

Hart Memorial Primary School, Portadown

Kilbride Central Primary School, Doagh

Our Lady and St Patrick Primary School, Downpatrick

St Brigid's Primary School, Mayogall

St Comgall's Primary School, Antrim

St Patrick's Primary School, The Meadow, Newry

St Peter's Primary School, Moortown

Strandtown Primary School, Belfast

Ashfield Boys' High School, Belfast

Belfast Royal Academy

Carrickfergus Grammar School

Clounagh Junior High School, Portadown

Hill Croft School, Newtownabbey

Clifton School, Bangor