Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

'John O'Dowd's school funding plans are hugely divisive'

Education Minister John O'Dowd
Education Minister John O'Dowd

The education minister at Stormont is currently trying to bring in changes to the Common Funding Scheme, which determines how money is allocated to most schools in Northern Ireland. 

John O’Dowd has used a perception that the current system is too complicated, to make changes to the budgets of the vast majority of primary schools.  He proposes to distribute large sums of money, based on the number of free meals claimed in a particular school.  That method, which is the bluntest of blunt instruments, will leave 81% of primary schools worse off.

These plans are hugely divisive and in my opinion the minister appears to be targeting schools and pupils for political reasons.

The minister is effectively running amok in his department, attacking the grammar sector and hammering parts of the system which are doing well.

I believe it's an unfair approach, it's dividing schools and parents, and it’s a blatant slap in the face to the many fine teachers who are working hard, right across the education system, to provide the very best schooling for all of our children.

Part of the problem is that Sinn Féin has been in charge of the education portfolio since 1999 and it hasn’t managed to address underachievement where it exists in schools in Northern Ireland.

The department should be working closely with the principal of each school which has problems, and examining what each school's needs are.

To make more funds available, O’Dowd could look at the amount of money his department wastes; like millions of pounds pumped into a failed Computer Assessment System or £30 million spent on a single education authority, which has stalled.

John O’Dowd and Sinn Féin have been letting down all schools, whether they are doing well or underachieving, with their attitude. We badly need an education minister for all schools and for all children.

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