Part of Oral Answers to Questions – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:15 pm on 12th March 2013.

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Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin 2:15 pm, 12th March 2013

There is great potential in them, not only for the schools estate but for our economy.  If we look at the maintenance programme for next year, I have set aside from my budget £27 million for the maintenance programme.  OFMDFM has topped that up with a further £10 million, so there is £37 million being spent on the school maintenance programme next year.  That is a major investment in improvement to our schools.  It is not enough, but it is a significant increase on previous years.

We have minor works programmes where up to £500,000 is being spent on works in schools.  I recently visited Ceara School in Lurgan, which is a special school that has been told that it will get a £500,000 upgrade to its premises.  That is just one example of where money is being spent under the radar on making a difference to our schools, the economy and employment.  I announced the school enhancement programme, through which £4 million is available to schools to refurbish their schools estate.  There has been quite significant interest in that, and £20 million is available in this and the next financial year.  Although we live in difficult times, we are using our money wisely to improve the education estate and to create and sustain employment in the construction industry.