Today the Education Minister John O’Dowd has named 18 schools that would benefit from the £173m new building fund, but most startling in their omission is the fast growing integrated sector. Is this a failure for a shared education future in Northern Ireland that we are building 18 new segregated schools with the best facilities, while many of our integrated schools are having to squeeze pupils into temporary accommodation.
One of the integrated Primary Schools that is desperately crying out for a new building in Bangor Central Integrated Primary, which is incredibly next to a soon to be vacated site. Due to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure providing a £15m grant towards the £38m new swimming and leisure complex a large site in Bangor’s central education cluster would have been available if the Department of Education had wanted to step in. However, this site has been sold by North Down Council for private housing development due to inaction by the local education board and successive Education Ministers.
It does seem that the integrated education sector has suffered when it comes to building schemes under the continual reign of Sinn Féin ministers at the Department of Education.
In the 18 schools he has managed to find funding for 3 special needs schools and 2 Irish medium schools, controlled and Catholic primary schools yet failed to fill any of the needs for the integrated schools. It is a glaring omission for one sector to me missed out with 18 projects, especially when that is the one sector that is teaching our children practically to live, learn and play side by side in a shared today not waiting for a future.
It appears that the minster is prepared to talk about a shared future, included future funding for integrated education, but not prepared to fund it today.