Tor Bank – pupils “likely to die” before school is built
The principal of Tor Bank special school in Dundonald has launched a scathing attack on the Government's use of private contractors to build schools. While his school has long been promised a new school building, its completion date has been continuously pushed back. It is now due to be completed by September 2006 – four years behind schedule! A contractor has still not been appointed to carry out the work, and it is possible that the whole project could collapse if problems are not resolved at another school involved in the same PFI project.
The pupils at Tor Bank, who have severe
learning difficulties and many of whom are in wheelchairs, are currently
being taught in eight dilapidated temporary mobile classrooms, an ageing
40-year-old building and also have to negotiate a steep slope up into the
school. According to principal Colm Davis: “We really want
to get a new building for our pupils as their time at this school may be
the best of the life that they are going to have. Some are likely to die
by the time they are 19- or 20-years-old. They cannot wait around for 10
years for a new school.” He describes the PFI scheme as "like a jail sentence"
and “unfit for purpose”. Overall, twenty-four schools are still waiting
for major work by private contractors to begin. Some of these
projects were first announced as long ago as 2001 and the total cost is