My Department has currently over 400 major primary school capital projects at various stages of architectural planning. All these projects would have undergone a detailed assessment by my Department and the majority require a combination of upgrading or the provision of additional teaching and other ancillary accommodation such as general purpose rooms.
The Government is determined to address the historical deficit in educational infrastructure. However, it is clearly not possible to wipe out the cumulative deficit of many years and to deal with emerging needs at the same time. The programme of activity for 2003 will be determined once the budgetary process has concluded, taking into account contractual commitments on projects already approved. It is my intention to publish the proposed programme early in 2003 so that all school authorities and other interested parties can be clear on the status and likely progress on any project.
I do not expect, however, that it will be possible, as suggested by the Deputy, to complete all of the projects currently on hands within a period of 12 months. Nonetheless, the Government remains committed to continuing the work that it has started and to consolidate the substantial progress that has already been made in order to ensure that the needs of schools throughout the country are met over time. The process of investment in educational infrastructure begun by the previous Government will be continued as outlined in the agreed programme for Government. To meet our objectives I will be looking closely at the potential for using PPP mechanisms and the concept advanced in An Agreed Programme for Government of a multi-annual programme schools modernisation fund to be financed through the National Development Finance Agency.