£5.1million bill for crumbling classrooms

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Just over £5million was spent last year on repairing ageing school buildings in the former Southern Education Board, which includes the Dungannon and Cookstown areas.

The total was the highest in Northern Ireland with the North Eastern Education Board posting the second highest bill at £4.8million.

The true sum is expected to be much higher given that the figures, which were released last week by the Department of Education, do not include the maintenance bill of local voluntary grammars and integrated schools.

The Mid Ulster District has been badly affected by a funding black hole in the school building programme which had mothballed plans to construct new multi-million pound state-of-the-art buildings at St Patrick’s Academy, Edendork Primary School, Gaelscoil Ui Neill, Coalisland, and Holy Trinity College, Cookstown.

Local schools are now the most overcrowded in Northern Ireland, with just over one hundred mobile classrooms popping up on their grounds in the past five years.

That’s in addition to the 265 mobile classrooms already in situ at schools in the Mid-Ulster and South Tyrone areas.

Last year, a school survey also revealed that 14 Dungannon schools are currently ‘overcrowded’.

The situation is likely to get worse with Dungannon’s population boom predicted to continue for at least another decade, putting further strain on popular schools with a surge in school-age children numbers. A large number of local primary schools are already over-capacity and have had to apply to the Department of Education for special permission to take on extra pupils.

Ironically, the Department of Education is intent on closing small primary schools in the Dungannon District, many of which don’t have to rely on temporary classrooms.