Alliance calls for clarity on school building projects

Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle has called on the Minister for Education to clarify her department’s plans for new school buildings.

The Minister told the Northern Ireland Assembly last week that the review of school buildings projects she commenced in October 2009 was to validate the sustainability of each proposal in order to maximise the impact of scarce resources in the best interests of children.

East Belfast Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle said: “I recognise the challenge of maintaining a crumbling school infrastructure and building new schools in the current economic situation is one that will require leadership from the entire Executive.

“The way in which the Minister has communicated the outcome of the recent review of planned school building projects, however, has left many local boards, principals and parents frustrated and confused.

Mr Lyttle is particularly concerned with the Minister’s assessment of Strandtown Primary School in East Belfast as only partially compliant for funding of its proposed new building and for the lack of time scales for other school building projects that have been approved for works such as Victoria Park Primary, Sydenham.

Mr Lyttle said: “I agree with the Minister that we must plan our schools estate; however, to allow schools, Education and Library Boards and the Department of Education to expend significant resource developing economic appraisals over a number of years only to notify them by school office email addresses on July 1 that they are not compliant for works is regrettable. In the case of Strandtown Primary School, to query the very viability of an infant/junior school model that serves over 2000 children across East Belfast and is regularly recognised as one of the most successful in its sector is bizarre, particularly at this late stage of the proposal development process.

“Naomi Long MP and I have requested an urgent meeting with the Minister to discuss this issue further and I hope she will be able to confirm when she will be talking directly with schools and Boards to provide clarity on this situation.

“I recognise that the Minister has used her budget better than previous direct rule ministers who failed to spend around £100m of money set aside for new school buildings but I would ask her to deal with this issue with as much clarity as possible if we are to tackle the ongoing discord around the education debate.

“We want, and pupils deserve, greater clarity and leadership on the delivery of modern, fit for purpose education provision for our children.”


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