Yes Minister - £40m for new schools, boost for Magee expansion

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Education Minister John O’Dowd has announced a multi-million pound cash windfall for local schools which will see Foyle College relocate to a new £20 million campus in the Waterside - a move that will, in turn, kick-start major expansion by the University of Ulster along the city’s Northland Road.

Other local schools to benefit as part of the overall £173 million investment are Ebrington Primary School (£4.5 million), Belmont House Special School (£7.4 million) and Eglinton Primary School (£2.5 million).

The Northland Road lands - which will become vacant when Foyle College migrates across the Foyle to its new site at Clooney - are seen as the perfect location to develop third level education in the city.

Indeed, the University of Ulster has confirmed to the ‘Journal’ that it recently exercised its “exclusive option” to buy the Foyle College lands when the school moves.

Yesterday’s announcement, said a UU spokesperson, was “a major step toward achieving that aim”.

Foyle College hailed the move as the “culmination” of 17 years’ work by its principal and governors.

A spokesperson said: “It will represent a huge boost to education in the city, the economy of the North West and the regeneration of the whole region when the current Foyle lands become available for future investment and development.

“It is of particular satisfaction that the announcement includes a further £4.5 million for Ebrington Primary School, which has been designed to co-locate with Foyle on the new campus. This brings to fruition a visionary proposal made by the Western Education and Library Board and both governing bodies of Ebrington Primary School and Foyle College to enhance educational provision for the children of Derry.”

Professor Richard Barnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ulster, said the Minister’s decision “would release a site which is the University’s preferred location for expansion of our activities in the city”.

He added: “The University of Ulster has consistently shown its commitment to the city, most recently through allocating to Magee all the extra undergraduate places permitted by the Department for Employment & Learning, through the expansion of our School of Nursing, now headquartered at Magee, through expansion in computing and creative technologies, and through the creation of a new School of Irish Languages and Literature, also headquartered at Magee.”