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Finance Minister Simon Hamilton's old college Regent House slams cuts

By Rebecca Black

One of Northern Ireland's top grammar schools may be forced to sack at least 10 teachers if its budget is slashed by almost half-a-million pounds under proposed cuts to the Department of Education.

The principal of Regent House in Newtownards - which Finance Minister Simon Hamilton attended- described the cuts as "wholly unacceptable".

He warned the proposed slashing of his budget will impact on the school's extra-curricular activities.

Headmaster Michael Carville sent an email to parents last week warning the reductions will have a drastic impact on Regent House.

"You may have recently become aware that the budget allocated to the Department of Education for 2015/16 has been reduced by approximately 8%," he wrote in the email, as reported by the Newtownards Chronicle.

"In real terms this would cause a reduction to Regent's budget of approximately £400,000, which equates to a reduction in our staffing of approximately 10 teachers from September 2015.

"This is wholly unacceptable as it will impact on your child's education and subsequent life choices, as well as impact on our employees' livelihoods."

Mr Carville urged parents of children at the school to respond to the public consultation, which runs until Monday.

"Political and financial mismanagement cannot be allowed to impact on our children's future," he said.

In its own response to the consultation, Regent House's board of governors said that the proposed cuts would be "impossible to manage".

It warned of larger class sizes and less support for weaker children, which it said would make it less likely for some to stay on at the school beyond their GCSEs, leading to increased unemployment.

It also warned that the cuts would have a negative impact on children with special needs.

Past pupils of Regent House include SAS founding member Blair Mayne, Traditional Ulster Voice leader Jim Allister, former Health Minister Michael McGimpsey and former Miss Northern Ireland Catherine Milligan.

Earlier this month the Department of Education's director of finance Trevor Connolly described the situation as regards the education budget as "extremely bleak".

He warned that more than 2,500 teachers and support staff must be laid off by next April to realise the savings it needed to make.

On average, each school in Northern Ireland will lose £66,000, the equivalent of three teachers' salaries.

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