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Backlog of school repairs hits £27m


18/11/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

The state of under-funding in the north's education has left as many as 28 schools with unfinished repairs estimated at more than £1 million each.

Budget cuts have meant that planned maintenance in hundreds of buildings - including special, primary, secondary and nursery schools - has not yet been carried out.

There is a £217 million backlog of improvement work in schools.

The scale of the problem was first revealed to the assembly's education committee by Department of Education officials.

All five education and library boards have been forced to make major savings in areas including maintenance to remain within budget.

Education minister Caitriona Ruane has now provided a school-by-school breakdown of the maintenance backlog in response to an assembly question by the SDLP's Dominic Bradley.

In addition to requiring major and minor work to classrooms, offices and corridors, schools also need thousands of pounds to repair and renovate canteens and kitchens.

Belfast Girls' Model has the single largest backlog - more than £3.5 million.

A further 27 schools need more than £1 million of repairs. They include St Anne's Primary School in Belfast (£1,954,862), Lismore Comprehensive (£1,804,029) and St Peter's High in Derry (£1,002,220).

It is understood Ms Ruane and her department have bid for an additional £10 million to slow down deterioration of the schools estate and reduce health and safety risks.

However, there is no certainty that this money will be made available.

Mr Bradley said the situation was "appalling" and said many children were being taught in sub-standard classrooms.

"There is a huge backlog in high-priority school maintenance which amounts to £217 million," he said.

"This shortfall is putting the health and safety of children at serious risk."

Mr Bradley said he would seek urgent and detailed information from the minister on each of the outstanding schemes.

"I want to know how the department will prioritise which schemes will be funded and, if the department is not successful in getting monies through in-year monitoring, bearing in mind that the department is also seeking extra monies to offset the huge increase in food and fuel costs within schools, how the minister intends to safeguard our schools and children," he said.

"This is a huge blunder which needs to be addressed urgently."



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