Northern Ireland

School buildings future 'bleak'

Caitriona Ruane
Image caption Caitriona Ruane made the statement in the Assembly on Tuesday

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane said the future for new school buildings is bleak, unless she gets extra money.

The minister told the assembly that she has made decisions on which of the 69 schools are to get the go ahead for new buildings.

She said most have been approved, some have been told to do extra work with the possibility of being approved, and some have been turned down.

However the minister refused to divulge the list of schools affected.

Ms Ruane said she would write out to schools individually to tell them their fate.

Assembly members complained that she had not shown them the full criteria for deciding which schools had been approved for funding.

Sixty-nine schools across Northern Ireland had been approved originally but had been stalled for months, awaiting the results of the Department of Education's sustainability review.

The minister had been due to make the statement last week.

However, she arrived too late in the assembly chamber and had to reschedule.

Ms Ruane later explained she had mistakenly stayed in another meeting until 1033 BST last Tuesday, three minutes after she should have been addressing MLAs.

She apologised to the speaker of the Assembly.

So far only one school has discovered its fate.

An Irish language school in Twinbrook outside Belfast, Scoil na Fuiseoige, said it had been told it will not get a new school and it has launched a campaign to convince the minister to change her mind.

If all the schools were built, it would cost £500m.

Meanwhile, Ms Ruane has also called on education boards to reverse a decision to cut back on summer schemes for special needs schools.

She said £20m a year could be saved on administration costs by scrapping the five local boards in favour of one Education Skills Authority.

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