Schools: Beyond the buildings

Building new schools is important, but so is a maintenance and refurbishment programme for existing schools.

For a number of years, the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools was judged by the style, quality and facilities of the new school it was about to open. Building new schools is important, but so is a maintenance and refurbishment programme for existing schools.

Some school buildings that are in a poor state of repair were in an urgent need of maintenance and refurbishment. We mapped out a strategy that meets the needs of our modern educational system. We have to cater for co-educational schools, the set-up of which will enable each college to have a middle school and a secondary school. To do this we needed re-construction in some places and extensive maintenance works in others.

This year we have budgeted an expense of €20 million for the works to be carried out by the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools. Eight million euros (€8 million) are being used this summer to cover the necessary maintenance and improvements in around 40 schools.

Significant alterations were made at the Birkirkara Boys’ Secondary School; the Cospicua Girls’ Secondary School; the Rabat Girls’ Secondary School and the Agius de Soldanis School in Victoria. These will be housing a middle school with effect from the next scholastic year.

A flagship project – the National Sports School at Luigi Preziosi School in Pembroke, will be carried out in two phases. All improvements and refurbishments are being carried out to meet the National Curriculum targets, vis à vis access to all. The MEPA permit for the demolition of classrooms and construction of new facilities was granted earlier this year.

Tenders for the first phase were published and awarded and I am pleased to state that the school will be welcoming its first students by the next scholastic year. This school will cater for 275 students. The provision of sports facilities is fundamental. The second phase, including the construction and finishing of a sports hall, estimated to cost €1.6 million, will be completed in 2015.

The ex-Boys’ Secondary School in Birkirkara will be extended to house a middle school. Works on an extension to the existing school as well as an addition of classrooms was started in June 2014 and this will increase the build area by 1,697 square metres. These works should be completed before the beginning of the new scholastic year and they have been estimated at €1.3 million. This school is expected to accommodate 550 students.

Refurbishment of the Gozo school consisted mainly of interior refurbishments including the replacement of tiles, apertures and mechanical and engineering services. Sanitary facilities, soffit ceilings and student furniture were replaced or repaired.

Several other projects in Primary schools are also being carried out. New sanitary facilities were installed in a number of schools. Rubber flooring was introduced in the primary schools in Birzebbugia, Fgura, Ghargur, Kirkop and Lija/Balzan. Passenger lift services were installed in another nine primary schools.

In many other schools, maintenance work and health and safety issues were addressed. As an example, we have removed any asbestos from schools and plastered and painted many areas in schools around Malta and Gozo. We have also installed CCTV in practically all the co-education middle schools to provide better monitoring. Most of the furniture for these schools has been replaced.

This year we have increased our budget for school maintenance and this shows my government’s commitment to education. Our strategy is clear, we want to make our schools fit for purpose. We believe that the school buildings play an important part in creating a safe and pleasant learning environment for students. I would also like to thank all those who have worked hard throughout the hot summer months to ensure that works are completed in time for the start of the next scholastic year.