Education: Ruane seeks to clarify school build plans
SIR, -- Since becoming Education Minister I have been determined to improve not only educational standards, but also the school buildings themselves.
Our pupils and teachers deserve the best accommodation we can provide. In 2005/06 and in 2006/07 direct rule Ministers handed back capital funds of 62million and 94million.
Since I came into office in 2007 we have invested 253million in our schools estate, much of it in this area. We have improved how our budgets are managed with 99.9% of the capital budget spent last year.
There are two elements to be considered before a new school can commence. The school and its proposals need to be consistent with my Department's policies to ensure we build the right schools in the right areas. I have seen examples of expensive new schools built, only to close just a few years later due to falling rolls.
That is why I announced a review of capital projects last year. The review has recently completed and schools have now been told if their proposals are fully, partially or not compliant with our policy framework. We will work with schools and managing authorities to resolve issues around compliance.
The second element is availability of funding. We are all aware of the difficult economic climate but I have consistently argued for increased funding for education and will continue to do so. I recognise that every minister will do the same, but I fundamentally believe that investment in our education system, including improved schools, will pay dividends in future years as our young people enter employment to help their families, community and economy.
Building new schools reduces the costs of maintenance, and makes good economic sense. It is regrettable my budgets have been cut and the potential for new school starts is poor unless additional funding is allocated. It is a question of priority and I would urge all elected representatives to support my efforts to increase the funding allocations for schools. We owe it to our children and young people.
Is mise le meas,
Minister of Education