Enhancement projects announced for east Antrim schools

Education Minister Peter Weir has today announced a final 16 schools to advance in design under the second call to the School Enhancement Programme (SEP2).

Tuesday, 5th May 2020, 1:00 pm
Education Minister Peter Weir.

Ten primary schools, four post-primary schools and two special schools will benefit from an estimated capital investment of £40 million.

Across east Antrim and Newtownabbey, the schools which will advance in design from this announcement are Greenisland Primary, Kilbride Central Primary, Carrickfergus Grammar and Hill Croft School.

Speaking in the Assembly, Mr Weir said: “The School Enhancement Programme has been very successful in delivering much needed capital investment in our schools estate. As of today, 74 schools across the estate – 43 primary schools, 19 post-primary schools and 12 special schools are, or will, benefit from the second call to the scheme.

“Improving the schools estate is one of my priorities and in the current unprecedented and difficult times, I hope this announcement will send a strong signal to the local construction industry that the Department of Education is planning for the future and is committed to supporting the local economy through delivery of our capital programme.”

To date, 58 projects are progressing in design under the second call to the School Enhancement Project. This follows 50 schools which benefitted from investment under the first SEP call.

Peter Weir added: “My Department’s capital programme aims to ensure that all our children and young people are educated in school facilities which are safe, secure and fit-for-purpose, enabling them to receive the quality education experience required to help them to fulfil their potential.

“This announcement represents another strand of the overall capital programme and indeed, marks the last announcement of the SEP2 projects. Over my term as Education Minister, I will review progress on the 74 announced projects and, subject to satisfactory progress and available budget, will consider if there should be a third call for applications to the programme, as part of the overall capital investment strategy.”

Due to work on the previously announced 58 projects, these additional 16 projects are unlikely to be initiated before the 2021/22 financial year, at the earliest.

Roy Beggs MLA has welcomed the announcement that schools serving the east Antrim area are to benefit from part of the £40m School Enhancement programme.

The UUP representative said: “There have been concerns that local schools had not been benefited from previous announcements of the School Enhancement Programme. I therefore welcome the news that detailed planning on school improvement is to commence on upgrading facilities at Greenisland Primary School, Carrickfergus Grammar School and Hill Croft School, Newtownabbey. However, there remains a need for major investment at Carrickfergus Academy following school amalgamation and this is an issue I will continue to lobby on. Whilst schools are temporarily closed during the current COVID-19 health crisis, it is important that we continue to plan for the future.”

Welcoming the announcement, East Antrim DUP MLAs Gordon Lyons and David Hilditch said: “This is a positive announcement from the Education Minister which will enhance the school estate in east Antrim.

“Having visited Greenisland Primary and Carrickfergus Grammar on a number of occasions, we are acutely aware of the benefits this additional investment will bring. Working together with our local councillors, we have lobbied hard to secure this outcome and pay tribute to both schools for their determination in getting to this point.

“Through this additional capital investment, both Greenisland Primary and Carrickfergus Grammar will be able to carry out much needed repairs and make improvements which will benefit both pupils and staff. Projects which have been approved to date include additional teaching blocks to reduce reliance on temporary accommodation and refurbishment of existing classrooms. We know many other schools in east Antrim are in need of additional investment and we will continue to press the case for further support in the months ahead.”

The announcement has also been welcomed by South Antrim DUP MLA, Pam Cameron. Mrs Cameron said: “This is great news for Kilbride Central Primary and Hill Croft Special School Newtownabbey. Both of these schools required significant investment in their buildings and this will be very welcome news for pupils, staff and parents.

“I look forward to the Department of Education progressing with this latest round of the enhancement program and commencing with the planned works as soon as possible. I know many schools are also hoping for future further upgrades to their own facilities and I am continuing to engage with the Education Minister regarding others in South Antrim.”

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