Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Caitriona Ruane vows school cash pledge will be honoured

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane

Schools in Northern Ireland will have access to unspent money from the past and in future, the Education Minister guaranteed last night.

There had been uncertainty in schools across the province |because the Treasury has removed millions of pounds of underspend which some head teachers roll over to fill posts like classroom assistants the following year.

The money had been in jeopardy due to changes made by the Government to the End Year Flexibility scheme.

But Education Minister Caitriona Ruane met Finance Minister Sammy Wilson yesterday.

The Education Minister said the money which was being safeguarded — £56m — would come from the Northern Ireland block grant.

“These were previous commitments made to schools and it's only fair that the Executive honoured those.

“What we're saying is we're going to honour the agreement that was made in 2008,” she said.

“This is money that is actually schools' by right, they built up this money.

“The Executive agreed the amount and in meetings with Sammy (Wilson) today we agreed the money would be found, put forward and commitments honoured to schools.”

Mr Wilson added: “This should end the concern across the school system — ensuring that both past and future savings will be honoured will provide the certainty schools require.”

The chairman of the Stormont education committee Mervyn Storey said the move would allow schools to continue saving and protect any savings already made by them.

“Many schools have made |savings and have budgeted to use those savings for specific |projects,” he said.

“The Finance Minister has assured me that the Education Department will have the ability to honour these commitments.”

A Department of Education statement said: “Both ministers agreed that schools must continue to have access in the future to surpluses which they accumulated through sound financial management.

“The ministers guaranteed to put in place arrangements to ensure that this was the case and that both past and future savings would be honoured.”

Earlier this week Ms Ruane wrote to schools warning them to avoid unnecessary expenditure until the matter was resolved.

The DUP warned that axing the end year funding will cause redundancies this year. But Ms Ruane intends to shift £41m from the building budget to pay instead for services and staffing.

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