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Call to extend deadline for school funding consultation

By Anna Maguire

The Education Minister is under pressure to extend the deadline of a public consultation on controversial changes to how schools are funded.

Stormont's education committee will be recalled for a special meeting on Monday to consider the call for an extension, which has been put forward by the DUP.

Proposed funding changes – presented by the Department of Education following an independent review of Northern Ireland's schools' funding system – will prioritise funding for schools with high levels of pupils receiving free school meals.

Education Minister John O'Dowd has repeatedly stated his intention to tackle the link between social deprivation and academic success.

However, the proposed reforms have been criticised for making widespread cuts to schools with relatively low levels of social disadvantage and reallocating savings to schools in socially disadvantaged areas. A total of 670 of 832 primary schools could have less money to spend on teachers, classroom assistants and resources from 2014-15, if the reforms are rubber-stamped. Some schools could lose more than £40,000 from their funding every year – more than a teacher's salary.

Teachers from affected schools have cited current budget problems and questioned how they will manage the proposed cuts.

DUP MLA and chair of the Assembly's education committee, Mervyn Storey, said: "I have recalled the education committee for a special meeting to formally call on the Education Minister to extend the time of the consultation."

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