Capital Spending in Education

– in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:00 pm on 26 February 2002.

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Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP 2:00, 26 February 2002

I beg to move

That this Assembly expresses its concern at the backlog of capital works required for school buildings across all geographic areas and all sectors of education in Northern Ireland. The Assembly asks the Minister of Education to take note of the underinvestment in the controlled sector and the pattern of capital spending announcements in recent years when deciding upon the allocation of money for school building in March 2002.

Is there any indication as to whether the Minister of Education intends to be present for the debate?

Photo of Mr Donovan McClelland Mr Donovan McClelland Social Democratic and Labour Party

I have not been informed by the Minister as to whether he will be in attendance.

Photo of Barry McElduff Barry McElduff Sinn Féin

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I seek clarification on the objective criteria deployed to select amendments. For the second year running in this type of debate, an amendment offered by my party has been disregarded, even though it is fairly close in substance and form to the original motion. I have to wonder whether this is political correctness. We are very concerned about the sidelining of our amendment. Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle.

Photo of Mr Donovan McClelland Mr Donovan McClelland Social Democratic and Labour Party

I shall make two remarks. First, the Member has been in the Assembly long enough to know that he need not be informed of the reason why the Speaker selected, or did not select, an amendment. Secondly, I strongly advise the Member against any inference that the Speaker’s Office might be in any way politically motivated. I cannot emphasise that strongly enough.

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP

I speak as a private Member and not in my role as the Chairperson of the Committee for Education. I am concerned at the absence of the Minister of Education, and I wait with interest to see whether he attends this important and very timely debate.

The motion seeks to draw the Assembly’s attention to the unacceptable condition of schools in every sector of our education system. Although I accept that school capital projects have been underfunded for many years — even from before the Assembly was created — I must highlight the current Minister’s poor record in addressing that problem.

It is not good enough for the Minister to hide behind the historic underfunding excuse, given his failure either to entice more money from the Executive or to produce proposals based on PFIs or public-private partnerships to meet the needs of our schools.

During my regular contact with school principals, boards of governors and educationists it has become clear that the condition of our schools has reached crisis point. Fresh, imaginative thinking must be employed to address the situation. Members will be aware — through constituency work and their service on school boards of governors — that the schools estate is in a very sorry state, with crumbling buildings and many out-of-date and unacceptable mobile classrooms. We expect pupils to excel in those circumstances and for teachers and staff to withstand those conditions. Meanwhile, the Minister and his Department seem powerless to address those problems. The motion is a cry for help to the Assembly to do something about the situation rather than to wring our hands and blame the Tories.

The other main section of the motion highlights the very real concern over the confirmed pattern of underfunding that exists in the controlled sector, as well as the indisputable evidence that such discrimination exists and is apparently actively pursued by the Minister, presumably to pursue his party’s narrow political ends.

Undoubtedly the Minister will attempt to excuse his actions and previous announcements by quoting statistics that effectively seek to gloss over the true situation and to ignore reality. I am especially concerned at the treatment meted out by the Minister to post-primary schools — secondary and grammar — in the controlled sector over recent years. The truth does not lie in the statistics produced by the Minister and his officials, which at first seem fair and equitable. It is only when one digs deeply into the ministerial announcements and press releases that one begins to unearth the truth of the matter.

For example, last year no school in what might crudely be called the Protestant grammar sector received any funding allocation. Whether that was a result of the Minister’s well-documented opposition to the grammar sector remains a matter for speculation; only the Minister can answer that. Whether it was the politics of envy being practised by an old-style socialist matters not: no allocation was made.

The other method that the Minister consistently used to cover his tracks when dealing with allegations of unfair treatment against the controlled sector was to pretend that schools such as special schools are really controlled schools, or that integrated schools fit into the controlled category. Again, such assertions are a blatant distortion of the facts. Most Members will accept that special schools cannot, and should not, be categorised or labelled as being either controlled or maintained, given that they serve the needs of the entire community in a non-sectarian fashion. They are entitled to a category of their own that will recognise their unique contribution to education in Northern Ireland.

Likewise, it is wrong that the integrated sector should be included in the controlled sector simply to balance the ministerial books. I suspect that the advocates of integrated education — some of whom are prominent Members of the House — would be horrified to imagine that their schools were grouped within the controlled sector when the Minister was performing the sectarian headcount. It would be much more honest and honourable to recognise them in their own status.

The sad truth is that successive Ministers — not just the present incumbent — have used this rather novel system when crediting the controlled sector with allocations in capital building announcements. Tony Worthington did so, as did John McFall. Even poor old Michael Ancram fell into the trap. Undoubtedly predecessors such as Brian Mawhinney did so too. The Minister can put away his book of impressive statistics; they simply will not wash.

I wish to touch on two other matters. First, I want to highlight the ongoing lack of transparency in the system by which the Minister and his Department make allocations. Secondly, I wish to mention the role of the education and library boards in this process.

In spite of detailed discussions with departmental officials on the system used to determine the allocations made each year under category 3, it proved impossible for the Committee for Education to gain a clear understanding of how projects are chosen for inclusion. Although the members of the Committee for Education are an extremely determined bunch, we could not establish, try as we might, how the final allocations were made. Bagehot’s famous phrase about the royal family and letting in light upon magic appears to be appropriate here. It is an unacceptable state of affairs that should, and must, be addressed by the Minister to the satisfaction, not only of the Education Committee, but of all Members.

My final concern surrounds the role played by the education and library boards in the system used by the Department to consider bids for the final allocation of capital building funds. The Education Committee found clear evidence that over the past couple of years, projects put forward as contenders by the boards were rejected by the Department because they were apparently incomplete. That is an unsatisfactory situation that the relevant boards must address and resolve without delay. Many schools in the controlled sector were oblivious to that situation, and it gave them a false expectation that could never be met.

In conclusion, if the Assembly is to help build a new Northern Ireland, that must be done purely on the basis of equity between all our people, and by clearly transparent policies, evident and practised throughout our system of government. If the current Minister of Education wishes to subscribe to those principles, he must stop taking decisions and making announcements that are clearly at odds with the notion of fairness and equity so publicly enunciated by him. It is time for the Minister to go back to the drawing board, and that will be the test of his stewardship as Minister of Education. The question is, will he pass or will he fail? At the moment it is not looking good.

Photo of Tommy Gallagher Tommy Gallagher Social Democratic and Labour Party

I beg to move the following amendment: In line 3 delete all after "Northern Ireland".

I am sure that all Members will join me in expressing concern at the backlog of capital school building works required across all geographical areas and the different sectors of education in Northern Ireland. If we could wave a wand and deal with all the schools on the planning list for capital development, it would take — at the very least — £500 million. As everybody knows, we cannot do that. Far too many schools will continue to be in a state of disrepair. Members know that poor accommodation and sub-standard school premises hinder the learning process of children caught up in such unfortunate circumstances.

I draw Members’ attention to the important word in the motion. The important word is "all", as in "all geographical areas and all sectors of education". The Assembly is committed to the principle of equality. Most important of all is the principle of equal treatment for our children. In deciding the allocation of funding — whenever that is done — the principle of equality has to be adhered to. Therefore allocation must be on the basis of need. That must be a guiding principle that underlies and underpins any allocations of funds, not just in March 2002 as the motion says, but every year. If we are to create a pluralist society that recognises and values diversity, we cannot see gain in one educational sector as a loss in any other.

The second sentence of the motion implies, and the remarks of the mover of the motion confirm, that the concern is sectoral, as opposed to a concern for the needs of all children in all schools. We have heard examples used to suggest that there is a biased pattern of spending in the capital development programme. I have reservations about how Mr Kennedy makes the distinction between schools in the controlled sector and those outside it. I disagree with the way in which he has presented and interpreted that distinction.

I want to return to the principle of equality. As I said before, no school should be denied funding on the grounds that it belongs to a particular sector. Another important factor that greatly influences allocation, to which the mover referred, is whether a school that is on the planning list has those plans at a sufficiently advanced stage for approval to be given and funds to be allocated. Very often, as some Members will know, schools are not eligible for funding because their plans are not complete. That is one area that needs a great deal more attention. If we are to achieve equality of treatment and direct resources to the most deserving and needy schools, more must be done to ensure that the schools with the worst conditions get the necessary help to have their plans ready in time for consideration. There have been examples over the years where expectations were built up that schools would get allocations, only to not receive them. That has been repeated year after year. We have to look seriously at that issue and assist schools so that they can get their plans ready and receive their allocations.

Photo of Tommy Gallagher Tommy Gallagher Social Democratic and Labour Party

I will not give way. Lack of preparedness of development plans in the past has meant that some schools in need have missed out. That has more to do with the failure to achieve funding rather than a suggestion of bias against any sector. There are ongoing concerns, and I want to refer briefly to those projects identified to go forward under public-private partnership (PPP). Projects for several schools were announced in last year’s round. It is regrettable that, since then, we have seen no sign of progress on that work. The rate of progress under PPP seems to be very slow — [Interruption].

Photo of Mr Donovan McClelland Mr Donovan McClelland Social Democratic and Labour Party

Mr McCartney, I will remind you about your attitude towards the Table for the last time this afternoon.

Photo of Robert McCartney Robert McCartney UKUP

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Since you did not warn me before, how can you warn me for the last time?

Photo of Mr Donovan McClelland Mr Donovan McClelland Social Democratic and Labour Party

Sit down, Mr McCartney, or I will have you named and taken from the Chamber.

Photo of Robert McCartney Robert McCartney UKUP

No, you will not have me taken from the Chamber. You may have me named.

Photo of Mr Donovan McClelland Mr Donovan McClelland Social Democratic and Labour Party

Sit down, Mr Gallagher. I name you, Mr McCartney. Please leave.

The Member withdrew from the Chamber.

Photo of Tommy Gallagher Tommy Gallagher Social Democratic and Labour Party

The rate of progress under PPP is very slow. Schools are not seeing any progress, although they are aware that in the case of one school the figure that the Minister quoted for consultants’ fees was in excess of £620,000. The Assembly must receive definite information soon from the Minister and the Department about the start date for such schemes.

Accepting the substantive motion takes us into the realm of sectoral rivalry. Therefore I ask Members to support the amendment because it best serves and safeguards the interests of all our schools.

Photo of Mr Donovan McClelland Mr Donovan McClelland Social Democratic and Labour Party

As Members are aware, 90 minutes have been allocated for the debate. Therefore I must restrict each Member to five minutes.

Photo of William McCrea William McCrea DUP

I welcome the opportunity to speak, and I thank the Members who tabled the motion. They do a service to the community when they highlight blatant sectarianism in the allocation of finances. Schools across the Province are in an unacceptable condition, but the record in the state sector, under the stewardship of the Minister of Education, breaks all the bounds of any political agenda. No one can hide behind the argument of historic underfunding. It has been a reality in the maintained and controlled sectors. We know what it is to have crumbling school buildings and, therefore, we are asking for some fairness concerning the money that is available.

It is about time that we unearthed the truth. It is difficult to get answers from the Department of Education. I asked questions, but I was denied the answers because it would cost too much money to provide them. I tried another approach to obtain some of the figures. However, what I find in the written answers is far from the reality of the situation that I am trying to unearth.

Children’s education is one of the most important aspects of modern day parenting. We have entered a period when learning will define our lives as never before. In the twentieth century, education was made a basic right for all, yet the high standard of education for all has conspicuously failed to be delivered.

The expenditure of funds in Mid Ulster, which is my constituency and the Minister’s, highlights the inequality in the allocation of money. Members should come to the Magherafelt District Council area and see the situation for themselves. In recent years, several million pounds have been spent on the construction of St Mary’s Grammar School on the Castledawson Road. That was necessary, and the money did need to be spent. All sectors of education have the right to spend money on their schools.

The next school that we come to is the controlled high school. It is a dilapidated building; the mobile classrooms and building itself are falling apart. Little money has been spent on it.

One hundred yards along the road is St Pius X High School. From 2001-03, a budget of £12 million will be spent on that building and its furnishings. I was not provided with that information in any of the answers that I requested. St Mary’s Grammar School is at one end of the town and St Pius X High School is at the other — and approximately £20 million being spent on those two schools.

A dilapidated, deteriorating state school that everyone is entitled to attend is located between those schools. Protestant children are expected to continue their education in out-of-date laboratories and accommodation.

Maghera High School is deteriorating also; however, millions of pounds were spent on St Patrick’s school recently. New maintained schools are planned for Cookstown and Donaghmore. What about the state-controlled schools that everyone is welcome to attend? The Minister should be ashamed, rather than running around with a brass neck — the allocation of funds is discriminatory and blatantly sectarian. That is unacceptable from the so-called Minister.

Photo of Barry McElduff Barry McElduff Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. The motion that Sammy Wilson and Danny Kennedy tabled is seriously flawed. We should be able to reasonably expect more from the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson of the Committee for Education than for them to advocate a biased sectoral approach whereby money is diverted away from the needy and allocated on a sectarian basis instead.

Photo of Barry McElduff Barry McElduff Sinn Féin

The Member will have a chance to reply later in the form of a winding-up speech. Initially, Sammy Wilson brought this hardy annual before the Assembly, and the Committee Chairperson has now joined the enterprise. The proposers are feigning and inventing a sense of discrimination against the controlled sector as a means of Minister-bashing and to extract more funds for one sector. Rather, provision should be judged on the basis of need.

It is worrying for other Committee members that Sammy Wilson should be joined by the Committee Chairperson, who seems to be constantly looking over the Deputy Chairperson’s shoulder for fear that he will be outmanoeuvred by him. Sammy went it alone last year, but Danny is now acting as his sidekick on the matter. It damages the Committee’s reputation and that of the office of Chairperson.

Photo of Barry McElduff Barry McElduff Sinn Féin

No. I am glad that Mr Kennedy clearly stated that he did not speak on behalf of the Committee, although one might have thought that he did. I remind him that he does not speak on behalf of the Committee on the matter. I record my concern that an amendment that Mr McHugh and I tabled was overlooked, as was a similar amendment last year.

The Members who tabled the motion know better. However, they choose to ignore the evidence that the motion sectarianises the debate and is unhelpful and irresponsible, given the proposers’ positions on the Committee. Our amendment, which stated that spending should be directed on the basis of educational need, focuses on the needs of all sectors, which are substantial. Mr Gallagher stated that £500 million was needed to address those needs, and the backlog must be covered. However, there are insufficient resources to fund the number and cost of the projects that are required.

During the debate on the review of public administration, Dr Paisley referred colourfully to the proliferation of temporary classrooms as broken-down caravans defiling school yards. The Programme for Government comprises a target to reduce the number of temporary classrooms. Good luck to the Minister and to other Ministers in their prioritisation of that objective.

Major investment in all sectors is needed. Many classrooms are undersized and overcrowded, and there are structural deficiencies in the schools estate, health and safety risks, and an absence of dining halls and proper physical education facilities.

I am thankful that the new opportunities fund, through its physical education and sport programme, is addressing the deficiency in physical education.

All children deserve to be taught in warm, safe, dry buildings. They need to be stimulated in an attractive, modern learning environment in which the delivery of the curriculum will not be inhibited or narrowed.

Photo of Barry McElduff Barry McElduff Sinn Féin

I have about 35 seconds left, and I choose not to give way.

The Members who tabled the motion know, or should know, that there are criteria. There is a methodology in place to determine which schools end up on the capital build programme. It is founded on the key element of educational need. However, there are none so deaf as those who will not hear.

I am opposed to a sectoral approach. If I were to go down that road I would be trumpeting the needs of the Irish-medium sector, but I accept that the situation will be judged on the basis of educational need, which must come first. I invite the Minister to visit Gaelscoil Uí Néill and Gaelscoil Uí Dhochartaigh in County Tyrone, if he is in the Magherafelt area.

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

The Assembly may have only been in existence for just over three years, but a few rituals seem to be developing — the annual Budget process, the annual Programme for Government process and now the annual get-at-the-Minister-over-the-allocation-of- schools-capital-fundi process.

That speculation will continue, and the concern will remain, until either we get adequate funds for our needs or we see more openness, accountability and transparency in the operation of the process. It is easy to identify the schools at the top of the priority scale where, for example, there is a need for a new building in an area with a growing population. Too many schools are clustered in the middle of the priority range in which competition is, unfortunately, seen as sectoral. Until it is clear how the decisions for those schools in the middle of the range are made, this kind of debate will continue.

The criteria applied by the Department must be spelt out clearly, with an understanding that they apply across all sectors. There are many concerns — not all in the one direction — about one school apparently being favoured over another. The Department must spell out how it balances the claims made by five different boards, with not only the ordinary controlled schools, if I may put it that way, but the special needs schools to be looked after — not to mention the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS), the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) and umpteen voluntary grammar schools, each looking after their own interests.

I am unclear as to how the priority lists that are supposed to apply in each board, or within CCMS or NICIE, are dealt with by the Department. I have a constituency interest in that Loanends Primary School, outside Templepatrick, is near the top of the North Eastern Education and Library Board’s priority list, but I have no way of knowing whether it will be at the top when it reaches the Department’s priority list.

Similarly, I am aware of the need for work to be done on Hillcroft Special School. Eileen Bell will be extremely annoyed if I do not also mention Tor Bank in her constituency. Unless we know how the special schools are dealt with and whether they are taken on the same or a separate basis, it is impossible to know what is a realistic assessment.

The proposer of the motion referred to his concerns that integrated schools are lumped in with controlled schools. He thought that advocates of integrated education should be concerned about that situation on a sectarian basis. I think that I may rightly claim to be one of the advocates of integrated education in the House, but what concerns me much more is the fact that those who tabled the motion have adopted a sectarian, point-scoring way of dealing with the issues. It is not a matter of how schools are lumped together — it is a matter of whether needs are being met, or whether we are simply reiterating sectarian attitudes in the House. I find it difficult to see the second sentence of the motion as anything but sectarian point-scoring and sectional pleading.

I am not interested in the pattern of spending over recent years; I am interested in the schools with the greatest need this year, on an objective assessment, getting the money. If that means that maintained schools get more money two or three years in a row because they have objective need, that is correct. If it is controlled schools that get more money for two or three years in a row from now on because they have more need, that is also correct.

If integrated schools — [Interruption].

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

— receive more money because they have more need, that is also correct. It is time that the Unionist Members moved away from treating everything to do with education as sectarian point-scoring. That is what the motion does. I support Mr Gallagher’s amendment, because it states that we should address concerns about lack of funding and moves away from inappropriate sectional pleading.

The major issues concern how we get the necessary funds to deal with the backlog, how the priorities are drawn up and how the process is seen to be open and transparent. However, if the Minister wants to make progress, he must ensure that the entire process is seen to be transparent. He must ensure that the House addresses the needs of children instead of engaging in sectarian point-scoring.

Photo of Mr Sam Foster Mr Sam Foster UUP

The debate is interesting, and I support the motion. The Prime Minister said that his priorities were, "Education, education, education", and I agree with him. It was interesting to hear Mr McElduff say that the motion is seriously flawed. Does anyone believe that Mr McElduff is not what he accuses others of being? We can make up our own minds about that.

I am concerned about the lack of capital spending for schools in general, but there is undoubted underinvestment in the controlled sector. I seek equality for all. We talk about openness and transparency, of which I approve. However, I am becoming cynical and unconvinced about the action, intent or meaning that emanate from such choice words.

I am also concerned about the lack of capital expenditure available to at least two schools in my constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Although there are others, my first example is Fivemiletown High School. Fivemiletown school has been the most successful educational establishment in the Clogher valley for many years. It has provided first-class education for the area, but, given its facilities, its teachers are battling against the odds. The school buildings are sub-standard, which is unacceptable. We do not want to let such a fine educational establishment fail after so many years of excellence. That would be a crying shame and unforgivable.

There are 430 pupils enrolled at that successful school. There are still 15 mobile classrooms in the school complex. The board of governors has a go-ahead attitude, and over the years it has taken the initiative to augment the existing facilities by running an internal fund-raising programme. Moneys amounting to £100,000 have been raised on occasion to make provision for the students. To the governors’ credit, no finance for the works came from the school budget.

Optimism was raised in 1995 when detailed architectural plans for a new building were produced. Bore holes were drilled and samples taken, which suggested an imminent start to the project. In 2000, the school topped the Southern Education and Library Board’s list for new building work. However, in March 2001, it was established that the school was not among those listed for pending work. That left people asking "Why? Oh why?"

The burning question for those involved with that school is why the school disappeared from the original list. That fine school continues to operate, but it does so under extremely poor conditions. Last year its top student obtained 5 grade As at A level. Such achievements must not be lost because of a lack of money for new buildings. That would be damning for the people who allowed it to happen.

We must have conditions that keep with the needs of the sort of commendable education provision that has been displayed by Fivemiletown High School for more than 40 years. Immediate action is undoubtedly required at that school.

My second example is the integrated primary school in Enniskillen. I recently wrote to the Minister, and he replied to my letter. However, I implore him to action urgent new build for that school, which provides good primary education, albeit in temporary classrooms.

I urge the Minister to act immediately to rectify the problems in those two schools so that the admirable tuition that is provided there will not be nullified. Capital expenditure is needed immediately if teachers, students and society are to benefit fully. Underfunding affects educational and academic potential, regardless of age, ability or attitude. The Assembly must not inhibit the children of Northern Ireland’s progress. I support the motion.

Photo of Mr John Fee Mr John Fee Social Democratic and Labour Party

Many Members, including the mover of the motion, used words such as "equity", "equality", "fairness" and "openness". Everyone agrees with those objectives. They also agree with the first part of the motion. The capital programme continues to be affected by a resource problem. Much work is needed, and many schools are sub-standard. The Assembly, collectively, wants to see that problem solved.

However, under no circumstances would I accept the prioritisation by a Minister of Education of capital funding for schools based on sectarian criteria. The second part of the motion asks the Minister to make decisions on a blatantly offensive and sectarian basis. I reject the second part of the motion and support the amendment that was tabled by my Colleague Mr Gallagher.

Members have issued many allegations against the Department of Education and the Minister. I have no brief to defend the Minster of Education. However, the Committee for Education should take account of the evidence that it receives regularly, and of the evidence that has been published. If it believes that it is being lied to, it should put its money where its mouth is and give the Assembly the relevant statistics. The published figures show that, since 1997, 32 projects were carried out in the controlled sector, six in the voluntary sector, 24 in the Catholic maintained sector and six in the other sectors.

Come on boys. The Chairperson of the Committee for Education, when he was wearing his Ulster Unionist hat, said that the figures looked pretty good. The figures undermine any allegation of systematic discrimination. Members have stood up, one after the other, like a Mexican wave around the Chamber, to name the underfunded schools in their constituency. Among them was Rev Dr William McCrea — the House knows that schools in his constituency are underfunded. Members are welcome to visit areas such as Jonesborough or Drumatee, where similar conditions exist. If Members simply want to gripe about schools in their own constituencies that need capital investment, the motion should say that. Let us not wrap up the debate in allegations of systematic sectarian manipulation of the capital investment fund — that is not taking place.

Other real problems exist in respect of how the final list of schools reaches the Minister’s desk, where decisions are made. Each education and library board, the Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (NICCEA), and the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) have their own criteria for prioritising — for example, the state of the roof of a school, the need for proper play facilities, demographics and the state of long-term enrolment, and the need to provide for disabled children or those with learning problems.

Certain boards prioritise on the basis of how high on the planning list a school might be. On the grounds of efficacy in getting a project through, the board might choose a project that is highly developed but not necessarily the most needy. There must be a clear statement that all decisions will be made on the basis of need to create an appropriate educational environment for every child, regardless of school or sector. There must be clear, published, agreed assessment criteria across all the education bodies involved. An increase in the efficiency and accessibility of professional management for the planning and implementation of those projects is needed.

We certainly need a much more professional approach on the part of the Department and on the part of the boards of governors that are introducing those projects.

There are problems. I do not like the way in which the capital investment programme is put together. I do not even know all the criteria that the Minister uses. However, I am fairly sure that there has been no sectarian bias over the past five years.

Photo of Mr Maurice Morrow Mr Maurice Morrow DUP 2:45, 26 February 2002

I support the motion. I am absolutely amazed at some of Mr Fee’s comments. I suspect that if funding were distorted against his community in the way that it has been against the controlled sector, he would not make such remarks. Anyone with even half a head can see that there is a serious imbalance. Schools in the controlled sector seem to be relegated to the second class and do not seem to matter any more.

I want to pick up Mr Foster’s theme. I support his comments on the two schools that he mentioned. Fivemiletown High School has an academic success rate that is second to none. However, the school also has a long track record of self-help. It is not a school that waits for things to happen. When funding did not come forward, the staff, community and pupils provided many things for the school. Had it not been for such endeavours, Fivemiletown High School would probably be uninhabitable for students.

In 1972, in the absence of Government funding, the school provided its own outdoor swimming pool, which was entirely financed through internal funding. There was no Government support or encouragement to get on with the work. In 1975-76, as a result of increased pupil numbers, additional classrooms were provided and the need for a building extension was identified. Between 1978 and 1980, the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) produced a building extension plan. Between 1982 and 1984, almost half the pupils were taught in mobile classrooms.

If that is not a serious case of deprivation and underfunding, I do not know what is. In 1985, an up-to-date report stated that there was no progress on the building project. By 1994, the project was no further on. The outdoor swimming pool was completely enclosed at a cost of £100,000. Again, most of that money came from fund-raising. In 1995, a deputation to the then Minister of Education, Mr Ancram, highlighted the need for additional funding. By 2000, the school had crept up to the top of the SELB’s list for a new building.

Then the current Minister made his announcement. Was Fivemiletown High School to get its fair allocation? The answer was "No". The school has been listed as category 3 — a seriously sub-standard school. Among the identified needs are a scheme to address the shortfall in permanent accommodation and the need to improve subject areas for a long-term enrolment of some 500 pupils. Despite that, Fivemiletown High School is not mentioned in the Minister’s list of priorities.

Mr Fee should rethink his comments and take a long, hard, in-depth look at exactly what is happening with funding for the controlled sector. I suspect that, when he takes a balanced view, he will not come up with the result that he mentioned — he may even want to support the motion.

I have been approached by the integrated school in Enniskillen. That school has also been neglected. I am absolutely convinced, and have no hesitation in saying, that funding should be directed to where it is needed. That is all we ask for, but it is not happening. I am amazed to see the amendment try to sectarianise and politicise the motion. The motion is neither sectarian nor political.

We want only a fair and equitable distribution of funding for the controlled sector. I refer to the two schools mentioned earlier, and I trust that when priority needs have been reassessed Fivemiletown will be given its proper place on the list.

Photo of Gerry McHugh Gerry McHugh Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I support Mr Gallagher’s amendment, as well as the amendment that was tabled by Mr McElduff and myself. They are much more accurate than the motion. The drift of the motion does not surprise me — it is visited annually in a similar guise — and it is far from anything agreed at Committee level. It concerns advocating bias and sectarianism. We have tried to move away from that, but the motion perpetuates what we had in the past.

Capital spending is directed to schools on the basis of educational need and not on the basis of to what sector the school belongs. To do otherwise would direct funding away from the needy and allocate it on a sectarian basis. The Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights reported in 1996 that the amount of temporary teaching accommodation in Catholic schools was three times that in Protestant schools. Such discrepancy was the result of decades of discrimination against Catholic schools by successive Unionist Governments. Unionists are in denial if they refuse to accept that their past policies are responsible for the legacy of underfunding in the Catholic maintained sector.

Schools in the controlled sector with a good case for capital funding must put such cases to the Department of Education. It would be tragic if the schools and their pupils were treated unfairly because of poor representation by those responsible for education. That is true for thousands of children in the controlled sector who are subjected to the transfer procedure, as well as for those whose school premises are unsatisfactory. The situation in Ardoyne has had a massive impact on the overall budget, and that in turn impacts on the schools budget.

Ardoyne is only one area where there is social deprivation. Communities in socially deprived or underdeveloped areas — TSN areas — should seek equality and free school meals. A recent article in the ‘News Letter’ threw out a challenge to Unionism. It stated that

"loyalist working classes have always been ignored by mainstream unionism."

It went on to say that the Unionist working class was used as mere electoral fodder for the political elite, and that both political parties in mainstream unionism remain irredeemably middle class in outlook and policy.

Why do people such as Sammy Wilson argue for the retention of the 11-plus selection system? That system has failed the people in those deprived areas. Why does he not argue for TSN spending and free school meals, which will help to improve the budgets of schools in such areas and save money for capital spend on schools that need to be built.

Everyone supports an increase in the overall budgets of schools. However, the areas that need new schools must be represented. Schools must put their cases factually, in time and in full, ready for implementation.

Have those who tabled of the motion ever asked for a quality impact assessment? If they have not done so, the reason is probably that it would destroy their sectarian arguments, which have no foundation in fact. Go raibh maith agat.

Photo of Iris Robinson Iris Robinson DUP

My Colleague Sammy Wilson will respond to the comments of the previous Member to speak.

Few issues have caused as much disquiet and anger as Martin McGuinness’s appointment to serve as Minister of Education in Northern Ireland. That development sent a shock wave around the Province and prompted many accusations that the Department of Education would be run to Mr McGuinness’s personal agenda and that state schools — controlled schools — which cater for the majority of the Protestant community, would be discriminated against in favour of the Catholic maintained and Irish-medium sectors. Some individuals castigated those who followed that school of thought and lauded the success of devolution and the return of what they called "accountable government".

Why are we debating the issue today? What has happened in the past few years to cause Members to doubt the integrity and ability of the Minister of Education? We are here today for the same reason that was voiced three years ago: that IRA/Sinn Féin would not operate the Department of Education on the principles of equity and fairness.

Like a footballer, one is only as good as one’s last game. Therefore, we should not prejudge the Minister’s performance. We should consider his recent record. The Minister inherited a portfolio that had experienced a huge deficit in the funding that was allocated to state schools, which mainly cater for the Unionist community, and in the funding that was allocated to the maintained and integrated sectors, which mainly cater for the Nationalist community.

In the five years prior to his appointment, a total of £230 million was provided for education, of which only £50 million was allocated to state schools. A mere 21% of all moneys granted was allocated to the schools that provide education to more than 50% of primary school children. It may have been fair to assume that, as a party so obsessed with equality and fairness, IRA/Sinn Féin would have taken the necessary action to counter that blatant discrimination. However, of the £72 million announced in 2000-01, only £27·7 million was given to the state sector, while £40·3 million was given to the maintained sector. Even on that basis the Minister was found wanting, because £14·4 million of the funding for the state sector was included in the previous year’s allocation.

As predicted, IRA/Sinn Féin’s commitment to equality continued — but only if one is a Nationalist. A total school investment package of £62·5 million was announced on 1 March. Only £14·3 million was allocated to the state sector. The Executive programme funds for schools and youth services capital projects that were announced on 2 April did not improve the situation. Of the total allocation of £20 million, only £2 million was directed to the state sector. It is an incredible situation that, unfortunately, was all too inevitable. It has led to an enormous backlog of urgent projects, and several projects in my constituency come to mind immediately.

Dundonald Primary School was built in the 1930s to cater for a few hundred pupils. The school now has 600 pupils, 200 of whom receive their education in mobile classrooms that are more than 30 years old and are in a dreadful state of disrepair. They provide an environment that neither pupils nor staff should have to tolerate. Toilet facilities are also abysmal. The school has more than 50 members of staff: female staff are provided with two toilets and one hand basin, and male staff have access to one toilet and one hand basin. That is unacceptable.

Tor Bank Special School in Dundonald provides education for 168 pupils with severe learning difficulties, who are aged from three years of age to 19 years of age. It was built in 1968 with facilities for eight classes. However, today there are 17 classes, eight of which are housed in mobile classrooms. The children who attend Tor Bank have specific needs, and in order to make the most of their abilities there must be total co-operation between parents, teaching staff and health professionals. Each time pupils need to go to the toilet or for lunch, they must either walk or be pushed in their wheelchairs up the steep hill on which the school is located. That is not conducive to the delivery of an acceptable level of education.

I support the motion.

Photo of Mr Oliver Gibson Mr Oliver Gibson DUP 3:00, 26 February 2002

This afternoon has been interesting because we have seen that, when it suits the occasion, the SDLP and Sinn Féin will unite. They have been caught in the act of discriminating, and they are howling, just as they have howled on every occasion for the past few decades.

We need investment of more than £1 billion, half of which is required for new building and half of which is required for repairs. For three decades we have had to spend money on repairing the destruction that the IRA caused. The SDLP has piggybacked the IRA’s violent efforts. All the money was misdirected — it had to be spent on compensation, replacing buildings and trying to repair the results of the IRA’s destructive efforts. And when it was given power, the IRA is just as destructive. If the same thing were to happen in their sector, Nationalists would be howling and making the same allegations. Therefore Mr Gallagher’s amendment, supported by Mr Fee, is just as bogus and invalid as the amendment that Barry McElduff wished to table.

A 3:1 ratio for investment is neither fair nor equitable, and the system is not transparent. To point that out has been an annual ritual, but we will have to make it a daily ritual until it gets through to the thick skulls of those in charge of administration that it is no longer acceptable.

The little primary school that my children went to in Beragh had to fight to get toilets. Only a matter of years ago the school still had outside toilets. Following a hard struggle, someone, condescendingly, allowed the school to have flushable toilets. The school outside Dervaghroy is more than 100 years old, and rationalisation has still to be announced. There are old schools in rural west Tyrone that have yet to be provided with modern educational facilities.

The Minister must look at other means of funding. If he cannot fight his battle in the Executive, he must look at how else to raise more than £1 billion. The best way to solve the problem is to ensure adequate provision. That would remove the possibility or allegation of bias. At present, the approach is biased. The debate has turned into the usual bigoted onslaught that we have come to expect, because when they are wrong, that is, predictably, how they defend themselves.

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

I welcome the opportunity to respond to the motion and to the points that Members have raised. It is no secret that considerable resources are required to address the substantial investment needed in building work across the schools estate. My Department and I acknowledge that, and we are encouraged by Members’ recognition of the problem.

The problem is not confined to the need for investment in major works. It extends to minor capital works and maintenance. The education and library boards estimate that investment of around £84 million is needed in minor capital work and £120 million in high priority maintenance work across the controlled and maintained school sectors. In addition, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools has recently submitted around 200 applications for funding for minor capital work in maintained schools next year. That, combined with the amount of investment needed in major capital works, is the legacy of decades of underinvestment that I and the rest of the Executive have inherited and are now beginning to tackle.

Danny Kennedy raised that issue in his contribution. I found his contribution surprising because I have never experienced the bile and the vitriol that he has displayed today in the meetings of the Committee for Education, of which he is the Chairperson. He has had many opportunities during those meetings with me to raise those issues with the same fervour that he has raised them today, and he has never done so.

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

I will not give way. Resources are limited, and I have sought and received additional resources from the Executive. I will continue to seek more resources under the 2002 spending review. In the light of the 2000 spending review, things will be tight not only for my Department but for the entire Executive.

Danny Kennedy mentioned special schools and controlled schools. Special schools and controlled integrated schools are under the control of the education and library boards. He also raised the issue of education and library board projects that have been rejected. To be a contender, a board needs an economic appraisal and development proposal where relevant. It also needs to be allocated funds, and in order for that to happen, it must have sufficient planning and sufficient priority in respect of educational need. A further issue is the state of readiness of several schemes that the education and library boards have advanced, and I intend to take that up with them.

Although the largest part of the capital programme is directed to major capital works across all sectors, it must also be recognised that substantial funds are made available to education and library boards to undertake work in controlled schools, and to meet boards’ responsibilities for furnishing and equipping controlled and maintained schools for school transport and for school meals accommodation.

My Department is committed to improving the schools estate, but the number and the cost of major projects competing for a place in the capital programme far exceeds the resources available. Each year’s programme is directed largely towards new schools, schools rationalisation, the replacement of sub-standard accommodation and to ensure that pupils and teachers are provided with a proper learning environment. My Department’s commitment is reflected significantly in the school building programme that is announced each year.

In particular, over the past three years, funding of more than £200 million has been allocated under the conventional building programme, and a further £70 million under public-private partnerships. Moreover, £16 million has been allocated from Executive programme funds.

Over the past six years, boards have spent more than £200 million on school maintenance — an increase of 20% on previous years — and they are working towards a 10% annual reduction on the maintenance backlog under their resource allocation plans. The major capital development needs of schools are prioritised in the schools’ capital priorities planning list, which has been developed in consultation with the education and library boards, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) and other schools interests. The capital development process is not initiated by my Department but by approaches from the boards, the CCMS and individual schools about the need for capital works. They are then drawn together, categorised by my Department and agreed with the boards and CCMS. The planning list plays an important part in the allocation of resources. At present, there are 98 projects with an estimated construction cost of some £500 million in the top three categories of the planning list: one in category 1; 11 in category 2; and 86 in category 3. The projects in category 3 can be broken down into 38 controlled schools — including 11 special schools — 24 maintained schools, 16 voluntary grammar schools, four integrated schools and four Irish-medium schools.

The backlog of work is even greater if the 80 other projects in categories 4 and 5 of the planning list are taken into account. Members should be in no doubt that I am aware of the need in all sectors. However, Members will recognise that, with so many projects competing for funding, it is impossible to meet all their needs within the available resources. The existing finite resources must be allocated on the basis of educational need, wherever it exists.

David Ford raised the issue of criteria and transparency; the priorities are published on my Department’s web site. It makes it absolutely clear that there are five categories. It outlines the number of projects: one in category 1; 11 in category 2; and 86 in category 3.

Category 3 is a broad mix of primary and post-primary projects. Of course the decisions are complex, but they are based on the priorities that are expressed by the education and library boards and the CCMS, as well as on professional advice on educational suitability, physical condition, temporary accommodation, and of course, the Programme for Government priorities.

The criteria for determining each year’s capital programme include not only educational priority, but the state of readiness of individual projects as regards planning, their cost and affordability, and, not least, the available capital resources. However, the key factor, as I have stressed before, is educational need. That is reflected in the provision of sufficient school places, appropriate teaching and curriculum facilities, and secure, healthy and suitable conditions that are conducive to teaching and learning. Educational need affects all our children, and it is paramount in my consideration of the capital programme.

My Department consults the education and library boards and the CCMS because they represent the majority of schools on the planning list and their capital priorities. Advice is also sought from the Education and Training Inspectorate and the Department’s professional advisers about the relative educational needs of the competing priorities, and I must also take account of what we are trying to achieve under the Programme for Government; for example, the reduction of the number of temporary classrooms across the schools estate, targeting social need and other equality issues.

We all share a commitment to improving the schools estate. However, I again point to the number and the cost of major projects that are competing for a place on each year’s capital programme and the fact that the costs far exceed the available resources — hence the need for resources to be directed to the highest priorities based on educational need.

As I pointed out last year, and as Members recognise, the backlog of work on school building projects cannot be addressed by conventional procurement means alone. I shall re-examine the possibility of clearing some of that backlog through further programmes under public-private procurement. That could supplement and complement the conventional building programme, and therefore permit more work to be carried out across the schools estate.

Tommy Gallagher raised the issue of progress on projects that were announced last year. Project boards and teams have been set up for all three projects. They are engaging consultants to assist in the preparation of their respective outline business cases, and it is expected that the Southern Education and Library Board and the Derry diocese projects will go to the official journal of the European Union in April and May; the North Eastern Education and Library Board project, which has encountered some land problems, will go early in the summer.

I wish to make it clear that my Department’s capital budget is not determined on a religious or sectoral basis: resources are directed to educational priority needs in all school sectors.

I also wish to comment on statements that have been made about imbalances in the allocation of capital funds. I say again that I absolutely refute any suggestion of bias in the allocation of capital resources among schools. Allocations are based on educational need. The suggestion, which has been made again today, that resources be applied on a sectoral basis is effectively asking that I elevate schools with lesser need over schools with a greater educational need.

I am not prepared to do that. It would be unjust and discriminatory. I am not prepared to discriminate against those in greatest need. There was enough of that in the past. In any one year, one sector may receive more funding or more schemes than another. However, we must not let that distract us from the imperative of allocating resources on the basis of educational need. Members may wish to note that over the past 10 years, the capital programme has been spread across 64 controlled schools, 47 maintained schools, 14 voluntary grammar schools, eight integrated schools and one Irish-medium school.

No decisions have yet been taken about next year’s capital programme. However, I met the Committee for Education last week, and I hope to announce the programme next month after I have had an opportunity to consider the Committee’s views. It is also most unfortunate that one of those Members who tabled this motion, who is also the Deputy Chairperson of the Committee for Education, failed to attend that meeting. Therefore he did not avail himself of the opportunity to discuss this year’s programme with me.

I hope that this information gives Members a better understanding of the backlog of capital works and the genuine difficulties that we face in trying to meet the needs of all schools. Members can be assured that I am keenly aware of the existing underinvestment in schools in all sectors. The Executive are also aware of it. That is a debate that occurs regularly among us. I will press for more resources, while continuing to ensure that resources are directed to schools with the greatest educational need.

Photo of Tommy Gallagher Tommy Gallagher Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:15, 26 February 2002

I call once again for support for the amendment, which recognises that a solution cannot be based on a sectoral approach. That is something with which many Members have agreed in the course of the debate, and which every Member realises to be the case. Representatives of all the different sectors — controlled, integrated, Irish-medium and maintained — also agree that a solution cannot be found along the lines of a sectoral approach.

As has been exemplified during the debate, the amendment allows us to raise our common concerns about capital development and about the poor state of many classrooms right across the school landscape. It recognises an urgent need for more funding, and it also allows us all to recognise that those schools with the greatest need should have first call on funding allocations. Some Members who spoke in support of the motion agreed with that.

I want to reject completely the remarks made by Oliver Gibson. I want to remind him that the SDLP has always promoted and supported equality of opportunity, and it continues to do so. It is ludicrous to suggest that the SDLP would in some way be involved in discriminating against schools in the controlled sector in relation to any aspect of their business, but particularly in relation to the capital spending programme.

Members raised some interesting points. It is clear that there are great concerns in every constituency about the circumstances and conditions in which young children must be educated. For example, many concerns were voiced about the planning process by my Colleague John Fee and by David Ford, to mention just two. I reiterate: there are very real concerns that some of our most needy schools do not see their plans implemented quickly enough.

Many Members mentioned transparency, and that is important. The Minister clarified the different categories of schools. It is useful to know that categories 1 and 2 are at the top and are likely to receive funding. It has happened that some schools in category 3 get lifted up into the funding allocation. The Minister said that there are about 80 schools in that category, which leaves about 79 disappointed schools asking why they were not chosen instead. That is a difficult but important issue, and it necessitates further work.

The amendment is going in the right direction to tackle underfunding across all sectors.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson DUP

Several Members have talked about this motion as the "annual get-at-the-Minister" or the "annual ritual on capital spending". They are right. This is the third time that this issue has been raised in the Assembly. On every occasion that this Minister has had the opportunity to announce capital spending, he has reverted to the same old sectarian pattern of discrimination against schools that cater mostly for Protestants. It will be raised again this year, and it will be raised again next year, if the Minister continues to behave in the way that he has suggested he will.

Several Members have tried to defend the Minister. Mr Fee was the most explicit with the figures. His use of figures is as twisted as the Minister’s. He started from 1997. However, it seems to have escaped his notice that the Minister was not responsible for funds in 1997. In the years during which the Minister has been responsible, a very distinct pattern emerges. I want to address that pattern.

It is very significant that all the Members who defended the Minister said that they did not know what the criterion was or how it was defined. It was almost like an act of faith in the Minister. They would not believe that he would do it, and the reason for their faith was that the imbalance was in the sector that catered mostly for the Catholic community. That is why they were prepared to place their faith in the Minister. The Minister says that he totally refutes those allegations, but he does not give us any reason to believe him. He also refuted the fact that he handed out nail bombs on Bloody Sunday, and now people say that they got them from his hands.

Let us look at the facts. In the first year that the Minister was responsible for capital spending, there were 10 projects in schools catering mostly for the Protestant community, and those amounted to £27·7 million. Of that sum, £14·3 million had already been announced by previous Ministers or was money that the Minister said he would spend when he got it some time in the future. It was not real money. Six projects in the sector dealing mostly with Catholic communities amounted to £40·3 million. In the first year there was an imbalance of three to one.

In the second year there was an improvement. The Minister announced seven projects for schools catering mostly for Protestant communities that amounted to £12·5 million and six projects for schools catering mostly for Catholic communities that amounted to £25·7 million. That was an imbalance of two to one. In April 2001 the Minister got extra money from the Executive programme funds.

A total of £2 million went to schools that cater predominantly for Protestants, and £11·1 million went to schools that cater predominantly for Catholics — that is an imbalance of five to one. He then says that he refutes the allegations. I have his figures with me. He cannot refute them; they are there in black and white. I obtained them from his Department’s press releases. The allegations stand.

I suspect that the Minister aims to do the same again this year. He does not want a debate. He hates debate. He hates scrutiny. He would rather be under the stone, away from scrutiny. That is why he refuses to answer questions when he is taken into custody on occasion. He also wants to refuse to answer questions here. What will he do this year? He will make the announcement on 21 March, just before the Assembly rises for recess. He is the Jo Moore of Sinn Féin. He tries to bury bad news on a day when it cannot be subjected to public scrutiny. Let me tell him this: if this must be a ritual next year, it will, because I want to demand justice for all schoolchildren in Northern Ireland. There is need in the controlled sector, and there is need in schools that cater mostly for Protestants, just as there is need in other schools. The Minister has to face up to that, and he has to do justice —

Photo of Mr Donovan McClelland Mr Donovan McClelland Social Democratic and Labour Party

Your time is up, Mr Wilson.

Question put

The Assembly divided: Ayes 29; Noes 42


Alex Attwood, Eileen Bell, P J Bradley, Seamus Close, John Dallat, Bairbre de Brún, Arthur Doherty, Sean Farren, John Fee, David Ford, Tommy Gallagher, Michelle Gildernew, Joe Hendron, Gerry Kelly, John Kelly, Alban Maginness, Alex Maskey, Alasdair McDonnell, Barry McElduff, Martin McGuinness, Gerry McHugh, Eugene McMenamin, Francie Molloy, Conor Murphy, Dara O’Hagan, Eamonn ONeill, Sue Ramsey, Brid Rodgers, John Tierney.


Ian Adamson, Pauline Armitage, Billy Armstrong, Roy Beggs, Billy Bell, Paul Berry, Esmond Birnie, Gregory Campbell, Mervyn Carrick, Wilson Clyde, Fred Cobain, Robert Coulter, Ivan Davis, Nigel Dodds, Sam Foster, Oliver Gibson, Tom Hamilton, William Hay, David Hilditch, Derek Hussey, Billy Hutchinson, Roger Hutchinson, Gardiner Kane, Danny Kennedy, David McClarty, William McCrea, Alan McFarland, Maurice Morrow, Ian Paisley Jnr, Ian R K Paisley, Edwin Poots, Iris Robinson, Ken Robinson, Mark Robinson, Peter Robinson, George Savage, Jim Shannon, Denis Watson, Peter Weir, Jim Wells, Jim Wilson, Sammy Wilson.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put.

The Assembly divided: Ayes 43; Noes 30


Ian Adamson, Pauline Armitage, Billy Armstrong, Roy Beggs, Billy Bell, Paul Berry, Esmond Birnie, Gregory Campbell, Mervyn Carrick, Wilson Clyde, Fred Cobain, Robert Coulter, Ivan Davis, Nigel Dodds, David Ervine, Sam Foster, Oliver Gibson, Tom Hamilton, William Hay, David Hilditch, Derek Hussey, Billy Hutchinson, Roger Hutchinson, Gardiner Kane, Danny Kennedy, David McClarty, William McCrea, Alan McFarland, Maurice Morrow, Ian Paisley Jnr, Ian R K Paisley, Edwin Poots, Iris Robinson, Ken Robinson, Mark Robinson, Peter Robinson, George Savage, Jim Shannon, Denis Watson, Peter Weir, Jim Wells, Jim Wilson, Sammy Wilson.


Alex Attwood, Eileen Bell, P J Bradley, Joe Byrne, Seamus Close, John Dallat, Bairbre de Brún, Arthur Doherty, Sean Farren, John Fee, David Ford, Tommy Gallagher, Michelle Gildernew, Joe Hendron, Gerry Kelly, John Kelly, Alban Maginness, Alex Maskey, Alasdair McDonnell, Barry McElduff, Martin McGuinness, Gerry McHugh, Eugene McMenamin, Francie Molloy, Conor Murphy, Dara O’Hagan, Eamonn ONeill, Sue Ramsey, Brid Rodgers, John Tierney.

Main Question accordingly agreed to.


That this Assembly expresses its concern at the backlog of capital works required for school buildings across all geographic areas and all sectors of education in Northern Ireland. The Assembly asks the Minister of Education to take note of the underinvestment in the controlled sector and the pattern of capital spending announcements in recent years when deciding upon the allocation of money for school building in March 2002.