Controlled schools ‘disappointed’ by lack of funding compared to Catholic maintained schools

Schools in the controlled sector are “very disappointed” by the lack of funding for new school buildings when compared to their Catholic maintained counterparts.

Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 6:33 am
Barry Mulholland has questioned the criteria used to determine which schools get funding

Education Minister Peter Weir announced £156 in capital funding for nine schools last week – eight of which are from the Catholic Maintained schools sector, with only one from the controlled schools sector.

The chief executive of the Controlled Schools Support Council (CSSC), Barry Mulholland, said in an interview with the News Letter that he and the schools he represents are “very disappointed by what they perceive to be the under-representation within the latest capital release.

“There were nine schools that are getting new build programmes and only one of those schools is a controlled school.

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“Proportionately the controlled school sector is the largest. Proportionately, we would have 52% of the schools in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Mulholland questioned the criteria used to determine the schools which receive funding.

“I’ve been asked by the directors of CSSC to seek clarification from the Department of Education for the prioritisation of schools,” he said. “We’ve asked for the scoring.”

He continued: “Our issue would be that it has to be on the basis of objective need. Objective need should be centred around accommodation, the accommodation needs.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re from a Catholic maintained, an integrated school, or an Irish medium school – if your roof is leaking, you’re going to get wet.

“I would stress that we recognise the need for new buildings for schools in all sectors. But there is deep disappointment at the under-representation of schools in the controlled sector, particularly when we’re going in and out of schools and we can see the need.”

There were three primary schools and six post-primary schools included in the £156 million capital finance plan.

A Department of Education spokesperson said: “All applications lodged under the latest major capital works call were assessed against the Protocol for 2019/20 Major Works Call for Projects, which is published on the department’s website and can be accessed via the link https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/publications/protocol-201920-major-works-call-projects-june-2019.

“This protocol is based on ‘need’. The largest areas of weighting in the scoring system relate to condition of existing accommodation, suitability of existing accommodation (to deliver the curriculum) and the level of reliance on temporary accommodation. In order to incentivise rationalisation of the schools estate there are also additional marks relating to prior work that resulted in approval of a rationalisation proposal. Schools are prioritised based on this scoring system and announced in order of priority – regardless of sector.”

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