SEAN Rogers, South Down SDLP MLA and education spokesperson, has expressed his outrage at students across the North being taught in substandard accomodation because of the inability of the Department of Education to deliver projects in a timely manner.
Speaking in the Assembly during debate earlier this week calling on the Executive to affirm its commitment for support and investment in the local higher education sector, the former school principal said the SDLP are gravely concerned by the information contained in the October 2013 update for the major works projects capital investment programme.
Mr Rogers said: “The reasons for these significant delays include revised economic appraisals, lack of planning approval and waiting for the appointment of specialised teams.
“These delays in the major works projects capital investment programme affect schools across Northern Ireland. Schools which have been affected by these delays include those in Belfast, Derry and Newry; both primary and secondary schools, Irish medium and the special needs sector.
“Each of these projects is at a value of millions of pounds – with one project valued at over £20 million. This is a substantial amount of money not to have been spent. This investment could not only stimulate the construction sector in Northern Ireland, but also provide an appropriate physical environment for the education of our young people.
“I spent many years teaching, and I fully understand the importance of providing good quality physical environment for our young people. The condition of physical school buildings impacts on the type and quality of the education teaching staff can delivery.
“The cases for these new school buildings have been made. It is outrageous pupils and teachers are enduring substandard environments due to the inability of the Department to delivery projects in a timely manner.
“The Minster has questions to answer in this regard. He needs to explain why his Department is unable to work effectively and efficiently but, more importantly, he needs to explain these delays to the young people who are continuing to be educated in substandard conditions,” added Mr Rogers.]]>