Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

670 primary schools in Northern Ireland set to lose millions in minister's reform plan

St Anne's Primary School pupils taking part in a music event. Their school could lose over £40,000 from its annual budget under new Department of Education proposals
St Anne's Primary School pupils taking part in a music event. Their school could lose over £40,000 from its annual budget under new Department of Education proposals

Four out of five primary schools will be financially worse off under proposed plans by the Department of Education to change the way they are funded.

At a time when many schools are already under threat through the controversial area planning process aimed at rationalising the schools' estate, figures obtained by the Belfast Telegraph show 670 of 832 primary schools could have less money to spend on teachers, classroom assistants and resources from 2014-15 -- if the reforms are rubberstamped.

There are fears that the proposed changes -- currently out for public consultation -- will lead to teacher redundancies, bigger class sizes and more school closures as schools struggle to balance the books.

Some schools will see more than £40,000 slashed from their funding every year -- more than a teacher's salary.

Former principal Sean Rodgers and the SDLP's education spokesman has warned class sizes could soar to 36.

The biggest losers include St Colman's Primary, Lisburn (£44,412); St Anne's, Belfast (£40,538) and Ballyholme, Bangor (£35,121) -- who will each have more than £100,000 less to spend over a three-year period.

Mr Rodgers, who is also on the board of governors of a primary school, said at Wednesday's education committee: "I know the cuts that we have to make for our three-year projection, and I really worry about that.

"You might say that 1% does not make a big difference, but, if 1% is £8,000 or £9,000, over three years that will mean the loss of a teacher. It will mean increasingly large classes, more composite classes and whatever else."

If the proposed changes to the common funding scheme/formula -- how schools are funded -- are given the green light by minister John O'Dowd, they could have a particularly detrimental impact on schools in rural areas, according to projected budgets based on 2013-14 pupil numbers.

Every school has been given a copy of what their new budget figures could be under the proposed changes, but they do not show the actual monetary difference.

The North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB) area will be the worst hit with nine out of 10 schools set to lose money as £1.1m is wiped off its budget.

Both the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) and South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) will see 85% of their schools' impacted while the Western Education and Library Board (WELB) will have 82% of its schools affected.

Yet in comparison just one in three schools in the Belfast Education and Library Board (BELB) will be worse off as millions of pounds of additional funding is poured into schools in the capital.

The minister wants to see the changes brought in so more funding is directed to schools in areas of social disadvantage.

Speaking at the last education committee before the summer recess, John McGrath, deputy permanent secretary of the department, said: "I think that it is important to outline again why the minister considered it necessary to review the way in which schools are funded.

"He was not satisfied that the common funding scheme, as it sits, is fit for purpose. He does not believe that the current scheme adequately supports his key policy objectives, particularly those of raising standards and targeting social need."

But he admitted: "Putting more money into TSN (targeting social need) factors gives a significant skew to schools with high numbers of pupils in receipt of free school meals, and some schools will lose out... they may well not have a future, but it would take two or three years for that to happen."

Mervyn Storey, chairman of the education committee, warned: "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 in the process.

"Surely there is something wrong with a revised formula which, if implemented, would result in excess of 80% of the primary schools being losers.

 

STORY SO FAR

Education Minister John O'Dowd made a statement to the Assembly 'Putting Pupils First: Reforming the Common Funding Scheme', which determines how funds are allocated to schools, on June 11. In the statement he said that the department would consult on his proposed changes to the common funding scheme. The consultation was launched on June 26 and will run until October 18 to give schools, individuals and organisations time to consider the proposals over the summer holidays. The changes are due to come into effect in 2014-15.

 

THE THREE BIGGEST PRIMARY SCHOOL LOSERS IN EACH BOARD AREA

BELFAST EDUCATION BOARD

1. St Anne's £40,538

2. St John the Baptist £31, 617

3. Strandtown Primary £25,942

 

WESTERN EDUCATION BOARD

1. Holy Family Omagh £22,512

2. St Patrick's Primary, Pennyburn £18,261

3. Enniskillen Model Primary £18,195

 

NORTH EASTERN EDUCATION BOARD

1. Mossley Primary £26,451

2. Fairview Primary £20,839

3. Templepatrick Primary £20,762

 

SOUTH EASTERN EDUCATION BOARD

1. St Colman's Primary, Lisburn £44,412

2. Ballyholme Primary £35,121

3. Downshire Primary, Hillsborough £30,455

 

SOUTHERN EDUCATION BOARD

1. Dromore Central Primary £24,184

2. Waringstown Primary £22,150

3. Carrick Primary, Warrenpoint £20,526

 

Figures show the three primary schools in each board area who will lose the most money and how much they could lose each year under the proposed changes based on 2013-14 budgets

 

THE THREE BIGGEST PRIMARY SCHOOL WINNERS IN EACH BOARD AREA

WESTERN EDUCATION BOARD

1. St John's Primary, Bligh's Lane £160,249

2. Holy Family Primary, Ballymagroarty £132,371

3. St Therese's Primary, Lenamore £120,497

 

NORTH EASTERN EDUCATION BOARD

1. Ballysally Primary £65,767

2. Ballykeel Primary £50,480

3. Parkhall Primary £40,735

 

BELFAST EDUCATION BOARD

1. Holy Cross Boys' Primary, Belfast £185,414

2. Holy Trinity Primary, Belfast £182,940

3. Glenwood Primary £164,557

 

SOUTH EASTERN EDUCATION BOARD

1. St Kieran's Primary £181,495

2. Good Shepherd £135,290

3. St Mark's Primary £112,881

 

SOUTHERN EDUCATION BOARD

1. St Patrick's Primary, Newry £55,366

2. St Malachy's Primary, Carnagat £53,096

3. Mount St Catherine's Primary £39,120

 

Figures show the three primary schools in each board area who will get extra funding and how much extra they could get each year under the proposed changes based on 2013-14 budgets

 

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