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T6. Mr Frew asked the Minister of Education to shed some light on the circumstances that have led to him being contacted by many school principals from North Antrim about the Education Authority’s maintenance department, which is telling them that there has been no budget for maintenance work since the start of the financial year; and, in anticipating that he will not get to ask a supplementary question, for an update on the Minister’s plan to give more powers to principals over their school budgets. (AQT 481/16-21)
In shopping terms, I think that is what is called a two-for-one offer.
It is not true that there has not been any money. The level of the maintenance budget from the Department, through the EA, has been about £14 million this year. That is probably less than what is needed, and that means that things have had to be prioritised on the basis of health and safety.
I wrote to principals and schools in the last week or so to get an indication of their views on greater autonomy. If there is a good argument that there are parts of the budget that could be better utilised by schools themselves in a sensible fashion, I am very open to it.
That correspondence is fairly open-ended for suggestions. It does not concentrate on particular aspects, such as maintenance or procurement, but those can easily be brought back to me in a response from schools.