The Education Minister John O’Dowd has outlined he remains committed to building 10 shared campuses across Northern Ireland, even though some of the earmarked funding for the ‘Shared Education Campus’ programme will now be used elsewhere.
The deal to resolve the Stormont crisis, resulting in the ‘Fresh Start’ agreement said that some of the previously agreed capital funding for shared and integrated education can be used to support shared housing projects.
Since the shared campus programme was announced two years ago as the headline action under the Government’s ‘Together: Building a United Community’ strategy, just three projects have been approved. The proposed campuses in Moy, Limavady and Ballycastle are currently in their planning stage. Work has begun to bring six schools together on a single site in Omagh. The Strule project operates as a standalone initiative outside of the shared campus programme.
16 projects involving more than 50 schools were competing for funding following the first call for expressions of interest. The second call generated a further 6 applications involving around 20 schools. It was expected that further schemes would be given the green light in the autumn, but schools who bid for funding are still waiting to be told whether or not they have been successful. The Department of Education say the Minister is currently considering applications and will announce his decision in due course.
Lauri McCukser, Director of the Fermanagh Trust who administer the Rural Centre for Shared Education said “While it is disappointing the £500 million set aside to develop shared and integrated education facilities is no longer ring fenced, it is good to hear the Minister’s statement that he is committed to deliver 10 shared education campus projects by 2018 and that he will secure the required funding to deliver on this action. We look forward to hearing the Minister’s upcoming announcement on the next successful projects.”