Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Let's have a real review which will place the needs of pupils first

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The latest attempt by the minister and Department of Education to fix the funding problems of our education system is disappointing at best and discriminatory at worst.

The consultation exercise appears to pitch school against school with large numbers ending up as losers. And clearly lead to a rural/urban split in the way our schools are funded.

The key problem is the obsession of bureaucrats within education to find a "one size fits all" solution to problems. We have seen this in regard to other aspects of the service such as post primary provision and area planning. We know that there are a number of issues within our system which make the funding of schools problematic.

These include the need to retain significant numbers of rural schools; ensuring urban schools with large numbers of pupils with special educational needs are properly resourced; resourcing effective early years programmes which ensure that all children get a good start; achieving an effective balance between primary and post-primary which puts the needs of pupils first and creating and sustaining an appropriate pupil teacher ratio in all schools.

The Salisbury Review of the funding of schools was a missed opportunity to really tackle these funding problems, many of which were compounded by the introduction of a single formula. The continued pursuit of this approach and the current consultation which merely tinkers with a failed single formula is rather like moving the deck chairs on the Titanic.

If implemented the only outcome will be in another five to seven years we will have to have another review to sort out the problems created by this one.

Let's have a real review which puts the needs of pupils first and targets resources in a way which gives schools the funding to tackle the educational problems they face.

I would challenge the minister and his department to produce the empirical evidence that by just rearranging the allocation of funding there will be an improvement of educational attainment, as opposed to structured targeting of educational need based on the needs of the pupils and the schools which has proven to work.

Regrettably the system is littered with such interventions that were only short term until the department and the bureaucrats decided it was time to bring them to an end.

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