The Deputy will be aware that last October and November my Department carried out initial investigations into 42 schools that were built by the company to which he refers. He will also be aware that of those schools, 22 required precautionary measures to enable continued safe occupation. The implementation of these precautionary measures was completed by December 2018. The safety of pupils and staff has been and remains our first priority.
Following on from the initial investigations, which were based on sample opening up works, my Department initiated a second phase of detailed investigations for the schools on the 18th of January last. This next phase of the programme is focusing initially on the 22 schools that have precautionary measures in place and at Ardgillan Community College, Balbriggan, part of which remains closed.
The purpose of these investigations is to determine the type and extent of structural issues in each individual school and, from the technical information gathered by the appointed structural engineers, to design permanent remediation solutions where these are needed.
In line with the update published in January, detailed structural investigations have now been completed in 19 of the 22 schools with precautionary measures in place and at Ardgillan Community College. The investigations into the remaining 3 schools with precautionary measures in place will be completed by the middle of May.
In the meantime, significant work has been undertaken by my Department, supported by the National Development Finance Agency and an appointed multi-disciplinary team, to design and plan permanent engineered remediation solutions for each of these 22 schools
An individual work plan for each school will flow from this body of work. These plans will feed into an overall timetabled programme of remediation works for the schools which will commence during the summer months. All efforts remain on track to achieve this objective.
When the works programme is available, the details will be first shared at meetings with the Patrons and the schools involved. An overall update will also be published.
In parallel with this work during the summer months, detailed structural investigations in 17 schools built by the same contractor without precautionary measures in place will also proceed (this number excludes 2 schools originally investigated as they have since moved into purpose built accommodation). A schedule for those detailed investigations issued to the 17 schools involved and their Patrons last week. The intention is that any remediation works that may be necessary in these schools will be carried out in 2020.
I want to acknowledge and thank the Principals, staff, parents and pupils again for their patience and co-operation as my Department works its way through this complex process.