Foyle and Londonderry College and Ebrington Primary School

Education – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 7 June 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Pat Ramsey Pat Ramsey Social Democratic and Labour Party 2:30, 7 June 2011

2. asked the Minister of Education for an update on the proposed move of Foyle and Londonderry College and Ebrington Primary School to a new site in Clooney.  (AQO 47/11-15)

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

Foyle College and Ebrington Primary School are two major capital investments that remain on my Department’s investment delivery plan. The proposed site at Clooney was acquired in December 2009. A stage C submission of initial sketch plans and costs for both schools was approved by the Department on 21 March 2011. The Executive Budget, however, highlights significant reductions in capital resources for education during the next four years, which will have a detrimental effect on the Department’s ability to deliver a school building programme. It will, therefore, be important to consider how the limited capital funds that are available should be deployed on a strategic and prioritised basis to address the most pressing needs and to secure maximum educational benefits for children and young people. That work will be a priority for me and my officials in the coming months.

Photo of Pat Ramsey Pat Ramsey Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Minister and welcome him to the Dispatch Box. I understand and appreciate the dilemma that the Minister faces, but, last week, I met the chair of the board of governors and the principal of Foyle and Londonderry College, who made it clear to me that the project started in 1995. It is a long time in moving. In 2001, I attended a meeting in the city regarding a number of Departments looking at the three-way educational development, involving the university, the expansion of the northern campus and St Mary’s College, a secondary school that has since moved. Minister, given the importance that the college and the parents place on this newbuild programme, would you be kind enough to meet the chair of the board of governors, the principal and myself to discuss the project?

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

Yes, of course I am happy to meet you and a delegation from the college. One of the reasons why it is important to have a local Administration is that it gives accessibility to the citizens we serve. I am acutely aware of the frustration and disappointment not only of schools such as the college in Derry but of others across the North. Not only am I the Education Minister, I am an MLA for a constituency, and I am aware of the difficulties and pressures placed on schools that are awaiting builds, especially in the longer term.

I am also aware that this project is part of a wider development for an economic brief for Derry. If the build goes ahead, Magee College can move in, and other things will fall into place. I am aware of all the potential that it has. However, we are working with the realities of a constrained budget. I recently took the opportunity to visit Lisneal College in Derry. It is a fine school with a fine intake and leadership. I had discussions with the board of governors. We have a £17 million project sitting there, and we have to ensure that we protect that. With the changing demographics and the fall in numbers across the board, it would be foolish of me and the Administration to allow that £17 million project to go to waste and to decline over the years. When we are coming to final decisions around Foyle College, we will have to ensure that the school moves forward, that Magee College is allowed to move in and that we protect Lisneal College.