£5.7m new build for Model Primary

Published: 28 Jun 2012 13:000 comments

There has been a universal welcome to the announcement that the Enniskillen Model Primary School is to be rebuilt, several years after it was recommended for replacement.

Anne Keys, (SMT) School Management Team; Barbara Brand, SMT; Helen Thompson, secretary with pupils Kloe Gault, Amie Elliott and Ben Doherty outside Enniskillen Model Primary School which is to be replaced by a new school.

Anne Keys, (SMT) School Management Team; Barbara Brand, SMT; Helen Thompson, secretary with pupils Kloe Gault, Amie Elliott and Ben Doherty outside Enniskillen Model Primary School which is to be replaced by a new school.

This week Education Minister, Mr. John O'Dowd announced that the school is finally to get a £5.7million replacement school. The new school project is not likely to start until the final quarter of this financial year, probably in the early months of 2013.

The School has an enrolment at present of around 450 pupils and applications for new P1 pupils are already oversubscribed for this September.

The Principal, Mr. Winston Glass and the Chairman of the Board of Governors, Mr. Peter Little said they were both delighted at the announcement.

"The school, given its growing enrolment and confirmed high standards, has featured well in the Department's longer term viability surveys. Regardless, this news comes as a welcome surprise to all connected to the school," they said.

"In collaboration with the Western Education and Library Board, the governors are looking forward to revisiting the existing detailed plans for a new school in order to progress development (on the same site) in the not too distant future.

"In the interim, the support of the WELB continues to be excellent, as gradual improvements are made to the existing estate - in order to further enhance the provision for all of the school's stakeholders".

The School was earmarked for replacement several years ago until the Northern Ireland Environment Agency intervened and suggested the Model School might be recommended for listing because of its architectural merit. This resulted in a considerable delay until the then Environment Minister, Mr. Edwin Poots announced that it would not be listed.

The Minister announced an investment in 18 schools across Northern Ireland with the Model School the only one in Fermanagh.

Mr O'Dowd said: "Since taking on the role of Minister for Education I have visited schools in each and every sector of education provision. The common factor across the estate has been the clear need for considerable investment in infrastructure.

"The need for investment far exceeds the funding available. While I would like to be in a position to fund everything that needs doing now, I must work within the budget available. This means difficult decisions on future investment plans.

"The area planning process currently being undertaken will determine the future pattern of provision in each area. It is estimated that it will be the final quarter of the current financial year, however, before the first plans are formally adopted. It is clear, therefore, that decisions are needed now to influence capital expenditure in the next two financial years, therefore I have decided to move forward immediately with 13 new school builds in the primary and post-primary sectors.

"These schools come from right across the north and were identified as the highest priority projects following a rigorous selection process.

The Minister also announced the establishment of a new Schools Enhancement Programme. This programme will make available funding of up to £4million for any individual project which is aimed at refurbishing or extending existing schools. Priority will be given to projects aimed at supporting amalgamation or rationalisation. Initially up to £20 million will be available for this programme in 2013-14 with the option of increasing this in 2014-15 depending on the number and quality of proposals.

While the Model School announcement has been welcomed, concern has been expressed at the continued delay in the new school for Devenish College.

Mr. Alex Baird, Chairman of the Board of Governors at Devenish College, said, "I am very pleased that Enniskillen Model School will now have the premises they deserve. I am disappointed that there is still no movement on the new school for Devenish College which we were promised would be open in 2008.

"In 2009 all six schools in the controlled /voluntary sector were involved with officials from the Western Education and Library Board in producing an Economic Appraisal which was submitted to the Department of Education in January 2010. This Economic Appraisal if implemented would I believe have produced 21st century accommodation for all of the controlled/voluntary sector in Fermanagh. It is, I believe, unforgivable that the Department of Education has allowed a veto by some involved in the process and has not acted on the Economic Appraisals recommendation".

A similar view was shared by Ulster Unionist MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Mr. Tom Elliott who said, "I welcomed the opportunity to speak in the debate and over many years there has been an erosion of the school estate with the closure of many rural schools in the county and the situation in regard to Devenish College can only be described as a disgrace and after eight years, still no mention of a new build or progress.

"It is my fear that the numbers at the school will reduce, staff redundancies will occur and that the Department of Education intention that the long awaited new Devenish College will never be built, but will actually force its closure by stealth. It would seem that Fermanagh and Devenish College has in fact largely been ignored by successive education ministers and now its forgotten.

"I fought long and hard to secure the Duke of Westminster site in Kesh until the new Devenish College was built and at that time we were given clear assurances and promises of a new build, but we continue to find that no funding has yet been ear marked for this school. It is a public scandal that tens of thousands of pounds can be spent on consultants for Devenish College and still we have a vacant site. What is now required is certainty that this new build will take place in the next round of spending in the autumn," he concluded.

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