O’Dowd in Derry schools’ cash windfall

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Four local schools are to receive new facilities as part of a £173 million investment.

Foyle College (19.6m.), Belmont House Special School (£7.4m.), and Ebrington (£4.5m.) and Eglinton (£2.5m.) primary schools are among those granted funding by Education Minister John O’Dowd.

He said: “This will be good news for the pupils and communities directly affected. A world-class educational environment will help us deliver the improvements in educational outcomes we are working so hard to achieve.”

It is the first money made available for major projects since August 2010 when capital spending was frozen.

Some schools have been waiting years for urgent rebuilding or refurbishment.

Nuala Begley, principal of Belmont House - which comprises the Little Oaks and Woodlands units - says staff, pupils and parents are “over the moon” at the news.

“It’s such a great boost to receive just as we are about to head off on our summer break,” she said. “We have so much to look forward to.”

Mrs. Begley says the location of the new-build has yet to be confirmed.

Ebrington Primary School - currently located at Lapwing Way in the Clooney Estate - is expected to co-locate with Foyle College to a new campus site at Limavady Road.

Yesterday’s announcement has been warmly welcomed by local politicians who hailed it as a boost for the local education sector.

Sinn Fein MLA Maeve McLaughlin said: “This is another good news story for Derry. Successive Sinn Féin ministers have shown their commitment to delivering a first-class schools’ estate and the massive amount of investment which has taken place in our city over recent years is evidence of that.”

She said the relocation of Foyle College was a boost not just for the school but for the wider regeneration process in Derry.

“The expansion of Magee University will be a key driver of regeneration in this region and the university authorities have been clear that securing the Foyle lands was vital to the expansion plans which they publicly launched in 2009.

“This announcement confirms the relocation of Foyle in the very near future and I am sure the wider community will now be looking to the University of Ulster to take forward its Magee expansion plans without delay.”

This was a sentiment echoed by her Foyle Assembly colleague, Pat Ramsey, of the SDLP.

“We now have the opportunity to create an ambitious education facility in the Waterside area that will cater for future generations of young people from throughout the community.”

This decision, he said, had wide-ranging implications for the city.

“It will allow for the Magee campus of the University of Ulster to utilise the land on Northland Road that is currently housing Foyle and Londonderry, which can only benefit the economy of the city and region, and will provide new impetus for increased student numbers in the city in line with the One Plan.”