Minister of Education, John O’Dowd, answered Members’ questions on new-build schools, nursery places and Entitlement Framework funding during today’s Question Time.
Fra McCann asked the Minister when the next capital builds list will be announced. The capital builds list contains all funding allocated for the schools’ estate in Northern Ireland based on a priority of educational need. This can include projects such as new-build schools, extensions and reconstructions. The Minister revealed that he should be ready to announce the list of future capital investments by the end of June 2014 – the significant challenge is to balance the need for investment with the funds available. To address the problem the Department has “been working to develop a protocol that will ensure that potential capital projects are assessed and prioritised in a consistent and equitable manner”. Mr O’Dowd was keen to “assure the House that I am mindful of the need for significant capital investment across the schools’ estate; my focus remains on a first class educational experience for all our young people that will help them fulfil their potential”.
The Minister also provided answers relating to nursery places in Annaclone, Holywood, Bangor and Donaghadee and on the future of Entitlement Framework funding. Following Oral Questions there was a fifteen minute period of topical questions in which the Minister discussed the area planning process, concerns regarding end-of-key-stage assessments, the Education and Skills Authority and the ‘Home-to School Transport’ review.