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Capital Spend: East Antrim

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:15 pm on 15th November 2016.

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Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP 2:15 pm, 15th November 2016

3. Mr Lyons asked the Minister of Education to outline his Department's capital spend in East Antrim since 2011. (AQO 658/16-21)

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I thank the Member for his question. The Department of Education’s total capital spend in East Antrim for the five full financial years since 2011-12 is £18·5 million. I do not have figures for the spend in the current year. Major capital programmes for St Killian’s College, Islandmagee Primary School, Corran Integrated Primary School, Abbey Community College, Ulidia Integrated College and Woodburn Primary School have all been announced and are advanced in planning. Work to deliver those projects is being advanced jointly by the Department and the Education Authority. I will quiz Members on the names of all those schools later.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I thank the Minister for his answer. I impress on him the need for capital expenditure in East Antrim, on minor works in particular. A lot of schools have come to me with a lot of need. Can he update the House on the new build for Islandmagee Primary School, which is much anticipated by local people?

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

The new-build primary school for the Islandmagee area was originally included in the January 2013 capital announcement, although it was subsequently withdrawn due to a change in the basis on which the project had been included. On 24 September 2014, the former Education Minister made a decision that the development proposal agreed in 2004 to amalgamate Kilcoan and Mullaghdubh primary schools — I bow to local knowledge on pronunciation — to create the new Islandmagee Primary School remained extant. The decision allowed the project to be included in the March 2016 capital investment announcement. As a result, a project board with specific responsibility for the new build for Islandmagee Primary School was established on 27 June 2016, with representation from the school, the Education Authority and the Department of Education to ensure effective governance structures for the delivery of the project. Once there has been an announcement on the capital build, the processes will move ahead.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

The development of Islandmagee Primary School has been rather torturous, in that it began in the early 2000s and has taken more than a decade.

Can the Minister assure us that the split site on which the school is now operating will increase the priority with which funding will actually be allocated and that there will be no further delays? Given that planning permission has now been delivered for Woodburn Primary School, when will both schools actually be built?

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

Right: I will pick from the range of questions. I appreciate the strong involvement that the Member has had with this. The speed will be up to the project board but there will not be any unnecessary delays.

I appreciate the point made that there was a previous commitment over a decade ago. Indeed, in a situation where I think that there was anticipation then of ever-increasing capital amounts, a lot of projects were given the green light and then the plug was pulled on them. The Department has learned from that position. Only those projects that are gateway checked and are therefore in a position to move ahead will get the green light.

I cannot give specific dates for when it will move ahead to completion but, as I said, the project board which brings it forward, irons out all the details and makes the arrangements, has been established and, therefore, this is something that will happen. There will not be any undue delay in that.

Photo of Stewart Dickson Stewart Dickson Alliance

I appreciate that this question relates to a constituency-specific subject. With regard to the minor works programme, what action does the Minister propose to take about the totally inadequate outdoor boys and girls' toilets at Greenisland Primary School — his predecessor having visited the school — which were put up in the 1930s and, to this day, are totally and wholly inadequate for children in the modern age?

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

Direct prioritisation of minor works is ultimately for the Education Authority. However, although it has been widely accepted that we are in a very tight resource regime, it is hoped that we will see and know a little bit better, roughly speaking, in a week's time, that things should improve on the capital side. I suppose, as with all minor works, it is a question of prioritisation. I appreciate, from what you have indicated, that this is something that — to slightly misquote a popular party tune — it is old but it is not beautiful in that location. As such, action will obviously need to be taken to rectify that, but there are a lot of calls on minor works.