Executive parties must explain integrated funding axe: SDLP

education claire hanna cara hunter

The SDLP Opposition has demanded that Executive parties explain how and why a devastating cut to long-agreed capital funding to build integrated schools and shared education campuses was agreed then snuck out.

On Friday it emerged that 10 schools, including Forge and Millienium Integrated in South Beflast and Mid Down, are to see capital funding for new build schools cut nearly a decade after it was first ring-fenced as part of the Fresh Start initiative.

It now appears the reallocation of funding came as part of the Executive's financing package from the British Government, and it is unclear whether Executive parties challenged the change.

It means that several long awaited new build and extension projects will now be delayed or possibly face abandonment.

SDLP education spokesperson Cara Hunter MLA said:

“It is a damning indictment of the negotiation undertaken by the Executive parties in December that we are now into the third week of crisis because none of them appear to have a serious grasp of what they have agreed to implement. First chaos around revenue raising and now a devastating blow to integrated schools and shared education projects which have had the rug pulled from under them.

“Almost a decade after funding was ring fenced in the Fresh Start Agreement, it is appalling that these schools, their pupils, parents and teachers, are being abandoned by government. Some of these new build projects are almost shovel ready, temporary accommodation has already been put in place for classes, and now they’re being told at the eleventh hour that it’s not happening. It is unbelievable.

“The SDLP Opposition will seek to call the Education Minister before the Assembly this week to explain how this happened, why information was quietly pushed out to schools and how exactly the new Executive could agree to this in the first place.

Claire Hanna, MP for South Belfast said:

“This is deeply distressing news for school communities at Forge Integrated Primary School and Millennium IPS who have been working for years with the Department of Education on planned new build works. Planning and preparation for this much needed work is at an advanced stage and it is honestly a gut punch for the schools communities who have worked so hard already.

“There are urgent questions that must be addressed to give parents clarity on how and when this critical work will continue. Children in our communities cannot be an early victim of Executive budget decisions. My colleagues in the SDLP Assembly team will be seeking urgent answers from the Education Minister this week and I will be raising the matter directly with the Secretary of State.”

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