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Money needed to repair vandalised schools could pay for 46 teachers


Money needed to repair vandalised schools could pay for 46 teachers
Monday, July 30, 2007

Belfast Telegraph
By Lisa Smyth

The Department of Education has faced a bill of almost £2m to cover the cost of vandalism at schools throughout Northern Ireland in the past three years - the equivalent of the combined salaries of almost 46 teachers.

During the past year alone, the department had to pay £562,000 as a result of damage caused to schools by vandals.

The shocking figures came to light as a result of a written Assembly question by DUP MP Iris Robinson to the department to detail the cost of damage caused in the past three years.

While the overall amount of money paid out by the department was down £117,000 during the last school year compared to 2005/06, the North Eastern Education and Library Board, which was the worst affected, suffered £194,000 worth of damage this year - up £60,000 on the previous year.

"Three-quarters of this money went on repairs to broken windows and the rest on making good the damage to the fabric of buildings and mobile classrooms," said the board's chief administrative officer, Robin Harper.

"One fire alone, in a classroom at a school in Newtownabbey, caused damage to specialist equipment which set the board back £12,000 in order to replace it. This sort of wanton vandalism cannot be allowed to continue with a constant drain on the public purse.

" Taxpayers are paying at the end of the day for the senseless destruction being caused by irresponsible youngsters.

"The vandals should be ashamed of themselves and it is up to everyone in society to ensure that they are made to feel that shame. If people play their part we may be able to stop the vandals and ensure that children and teachers can go back to school in September to buildings that are in a proper state for them to work in."

In response to the figures, Mrs Robinson said she was concerned at the strain the vandalism is putting on education funding.

In particular, she commented on the difficulties faced by the South Eastern Education and Library Board to repair damage following the discovery of a £20m budget deficit.

"With unbearable pressures being faced and with front line services under threat, we need every single penny we can get, and it is infuriating that vandals should be responsible for increasing the burden on teachers and staff in schools across the province," she said.

One of the schools from the South Eastern Education and Library Board which was hit with a £20,000 bill following a rampage by vandals in April was Lagan College in Belfast - the first integrated school in the province.

Frances Donnelly, senior development officer from the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, said: "Vandalism against schools results in a drain on hard-pressed school budgets and diverts resources from the classroom.

"The integrated education sector, like all sectors, has suffered at the hands of vandals, and deplores the blatant disregard for property which is evident when a school is attacked.

"All children, from any background or religion, have the right to an education and the integrated education movement is against any unlawful activity which prevents this."



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