School hails 'outstanding' £80m funding boost

Man in blue shirt looking at the camera
The principal of Millennium Integrated Primary, Barry Corrigan, said the funding will bring a great educational experience for the children. [BBC]

A principal whose primary school will benefit from a portion of £80m in newly-announced education funding has said the cash will make a “massive difference”.

Just three months ago Millennium Integrated Primary, in County Down, was one of 10 schools told it would no longer get upgrades due to funding cuts.

Now, it is one of 15 in line for cash under funding announced by Education Minister Paul Givan on Tuesday.

That money will go towards classroom expansion, more grass play areas and nature trails.

Barry Corrigan, the school’s principal, said he was “really happy with the learning and teaching experience that the children will get”.

He told BBC Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra programme that because of the drop in funding, the school was 200 pupils over capacity.

This put strain on the school's resources that was exacerbated by preparatory work for new construction projects, which had already begun when the cuts were announced in February.

This meant, for the past few months, certain parts of the playground were unusable, which resulted in children having reduced break times outside.

Women looking into camera
Leon Briek said playground had gotten smaller and pupils had less time to go outside [BBC]

Lunch times also had to be changed, which led to staff being unable to spend their breaks together.

Leon Briek, who has three children at the school, said the funding will be a massive change for the pupils.

“The playground got smaller and the time for kids to go outside got shorter and you could see the effects of that with the kids."

She added that children need that time and freedom outside, so she was “delighted” that the projects can go forward.

Jonathan Stacey, whose daughter attends Millennium Integrated Primary
Jonathan Stacey said it was disappointing when the funding was cut [BBC]

Jonathan Stacey, who has a daughter in P4, said the funding news was "outstanding".

"It made it harder for the kids with the room - the classrooms and playgrounds became smaller but now we know that's happening we look to the future for it."

Mr Corrigan said he was hopeful work would resume "very very soon".

He added that he believed the funding create better staff cohesion and more opportunities for pupils.

“This will give the older pupils a bit more of a responsibility and will give the younger pupils a chance to play with the equipment and with their older peers," he added.

Concrete school playground with football goal.
The new funding will replace this concrete with grass [BBC]

When announcing the new £80m funding, Mr Givan said the February cuts resulted in him moving the projects to his "conventional major works programme".

“It is my priority to ensure the educational experiences of as many children and young people as possible across Northern Ireland are impacted positively by capital investment," he added.

He also said he plans to launch smaller scale programmes to enhance school curriculums.