Schools: COVID-19 Capital Investment

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 21st September 2021.

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Photo of Declan McAleer Declan McAleer Sinn Féin 2:30 pm, 21st September 2021

T5. Mr McAleer asked the Minister of Education whether the new COVID-19 reality will be reflected in future plans for capital investment in the schools estate, given that she will be aware of the many concerns about ventilation and appropriate space and capacity in schools that have been highlighted by parents, children and staff. (AQT 1585/17-22)

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

I thank the Member for his question. He will be aware that, over the past few months, I have made that a priority as much as I can around a broad range of schools. I am concerned about the disparity of provision across the schools estate.

I recently met my officials and representatives from the EA to discuss minor works, maintenance, the school enhancement programme and major capital projects. The Member will be aware, having been in attendance at many finance debates in the House, that money is clearly an issue and will continue to be so. While capital is probably more readily available to the Executive, resource is also required to carry out those projects.

I am more than happy to put together a substantial bid if the Member's colleagues are willing to support it. While I hope to announce a further list of capital projects before the end of the mandate, it really will be only a drop in the ocean of what is required to bring the estate up to standard. All children and young people, along with the dedicated staff who nurture and educate them, deserve to be in facilities that are fit for purpose. I will continue conversations with my officials to try to achieve that.

Photo of Declan McAleer Declan McAleer Sinn Féin

I thank the Minister for her response. One college on which I have lobbied her Department frequently is the Dean Maguirc College in Carrickmore. Her colleague, former Minister Weir, paid a ministerial visit there earlier this year. The college is in need of additional space and investment, and a project is in the pipeline. The Minister may not have the detail of that specific case. If she has, that would be great, but, if not, could I be updated on that project in due course?

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

I thank the Member for his question. Many Members could point to schools in their constituencies that are in need of an upgrade or replacement. I do not have the details of the school that he mentioned, although my colleague to my left might be able to whisper into my ear.

[Laughter.]

If the Member is content, I will write to him with information. Given that my same colleague visited quite recently, he may not need a ministerial visit.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

I call Claire Sugden, who may get only one question.