Schools get £40m building work boost

Written by: Simon Doyle | Published:

Five secondary schools in Northern Ireland are to benefit from a multi-million-pound scheme to fund building work.

A pot of £40 million is being released through the School Enhancement Programme (SEP), which aims to benefit those who need substantial work that falls short of a new build.

There is limited money available for capital projects due to major pressure on finances across the entire education system in Northern Ireland. The Department of Education says there can no longer be a presumption of a new building where one is needed.

Funding of between £500,000 and £5 million is available through the SEP. This is for smaller scale works including refurbishments or extensions. The schools are Dominican College, Portstewart, Methodist College, Belfast, St Columbanus’ College in Bangor, St Mary’s Christian Brothers’ in Belfast and St Patrick’s and St Brigid’s College, Claudy. It is unknown how much each school will receive.

The department says the schools’ applications will now be scoped and feasibility studies undertaken. This information will inform the individual business cases. Only after approval of a business case will the funding required for a project be known.

St Columbanus’ College plans to use the funding to start the phased replacement of its 60-year-old buildings. It will include a new building for science and technology and study facilities.
The Controlled Schools’ Support Council says investment in the schools’ estate is essential to support high-quality education. Chief executive Barry Mulholland adds, however, that levels of capital funding continue to be insufficient to support much needed improvements to other schools.

The overall budget available, he says, means insufficient funding for minor works, new build and school enhancement programmes, “compounding the pressure on the schools’ estate”.

“Northern Ireland’s education system requires significant investment after year-on-year decreases to school budgets in real terms,” he said. “If there is insufficient investment in the education system, then Northern Ireland’s future is bleak.”


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