Integrated education ‘big loser’ in political fall-out, says Armstrong

Alliance Strangford candidate Kellie Armstrong has said integrated education is the “big loser” in the political fall-out which led to the collapse of the Assembly, after it was revealed millions have been lost due to the lack of a working Executive.

Under the Fresh Start Agreement, £500 million had been agreed to be spent on integrated education, shared education and shared housing over 10 years. The first year saw £47 million spent, but only £3 million in the second by Education Minister Peter Weir, with little possibility of the unspent cash rolling over to another year.

Ms Armstrong recently met with the Northern Ireland Office as part of her work on a Private Member’s Bill before the collapse of the Assembly. She said it had been confirmed the money had to be spent on capital builds for integrated schools or shared education campuses.

“Surveys regularly show parents want their children educated in integrated schools. That is why I hoped to bring my Bill, to promote and develop integrated education. If I am re-elected to the Assembly, I intend on progressing such a Bill as quickly as possible.

“The bulk of the £500 million can only be spent if an Executive can sign off projects. If they do, the money could be drawn down, it did not need the school to be built. If I was a Minister and someone offered my Department £500 million to replace and create buildings, I would have prioritised that spend. However, without a functioning Executive, integrated education has become the big loser in all this.

“It has been the poor relation for too long. The demand is clearly there for integrated education. It is now up to the electorate to put back into office politicians who can work together for the benefit of all sections of the community, not squandering money just for narrow vested interests.”

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