Schools’ funding situation ‘critical’

Education
Education

Carrick’s four post-primary schools have come together to highlight the “critical situation” they are facing following budget cuts.

A joint statement was released this week by the principals of Carrickfergus College, Carrickfergus Grammar, Downshire Community School and Ulidia Integrated College, who together make up the Carrickfergus Learning Community.

The schools are calling for parents to object to the Department of Education cuts which, they claim, have left Northern Ireland’s education system at a “crossroads”.

“With schools already stretched to breaking point by successive cuts in recent years and all cost reducing steps exhausted, schools across Northern Ireland are now facing unprecedented financial pressures and will be running unsustainable deficits,” the statement read.

“This will have a direct and significant detrimental effect on the quality of education currently offered to pupils.

“Schools have been proactive in recent years by managing significant cuts to their budgets which have already resulted in a reduction of approximately 10 percent in the teacher workforce.

“Without proper funding further cuts to staffing will be inevitable.”

The cuts will have consequences for post-primary provision, the schools warn, including a “reduction in subject choices at GCSE and A Level; even larger class sizes; a potentially shorter school day; poorer learning environments with cuts in maintenance, administration, technical support, cleaning and resources; an increase in non-specialist teachers delivering the curriculum, and reduced educational opportunities for a generation of pupils”.

“Northern Ireland education is at a crossroads,” the statement continues.

The principals go on to state that schools have found themselves in crisis because of pressures totally outside their control including “a 3.4 percent rise in employer National Insurance contributions which means a £70,000 increase per average school and “a 4.1 percent rise in Employer Superannuation contributions”.

which is only partially funded to schools, and the cost of living pay rises of between 1 percent and 2.2 percent agreed by government and unions but which are not funded by the Department of Education.”

Pointing to the situation in other parts of the UK, the statement adds: “Our schools are already seriously disadvantaged compared to their counterparts in England. In Northern Ireland, schools receive only 59 percent of the money allocated to education whilst over 40 percent is used for administration or ring fenced by the Department of Education.

“Elsewhere in the UK up to 90 percent of funds are delegated directly to schools allowing for much greater financial efficiency and flexibility with a clear and direct benefit to pupils. 

“There is no doubt that this new budget proposed by the Department of Education will lead to dramatic reductions in the quality of frontline classroom provision.

“Together we call on our politicians to reconsider these plans and find the cost savings in administrative and other areas which will have less potential impact on the futures of Northern Ireland’s pupils. Surely Northern Ireland’s priority must be to invest in the future of our children.”