Education minister John O’Dowd is allowing eight post-primary building projects to be brought forward. Many schools have been waiting years for capital investment.
Mr O’Dowd says he can no longer plan for the needs of individual schools alone. His building plans, therefore, recognise recommendations made as part of the Northern Ireland-wide area planning exercise.
While his new capital list includes eight post-primary projects, some will only receive building money if they amalgamate with neighbouring colleges.
Among those to benefit are Holy Trinity College in Cookstown, Strabane Academy and Parkhall Integrated College in Antrim. Two junior high schools in Lurgan will be merged with St Michael’s Grammar to create an all-abilities college. Elsewhere, Devenish College in Enniskillen will be replaced with the project also facilitating the amalgamation or closure of Lisnaskea High.
Mr O’Dowd said: “I have been very careful about what I have said. This is a good news story, but I do not want to raise expectations among those schools that construction will start in the immediate future. It will not.
“The schools have to continue through the planning process. I suspect that a number of the projects will be able to start in the current budgetary period, and that is why we are planning for them. If further finance or capital becomes available, we have a list of schools ready to move forward.”
Mr O’Dowd also says the time is now for secondary schools to make a decision on whether or not they wish to join the massive Lisanelly shared campus in Omagh. The £100 million project will provide new buildings and facilities for six schools, but so far none of the six post-primaries in Omagh have signed up.