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Funding crisis a ‘threat to future of Ulster schools’

The worst education funding crisis in a generation is threatening the future of Northern Ireland’s schools, it has been claimed.

Teachers from across the province are due to debate school funding during their annual conference in Newcastle’s Slieve Donard Hotel.

The Ulster Teachers Union (UTU) is calling on the Executive to meet as a matter of urgency to press the case for safeguarding frontline funding for educational services.

In her conference speech last night UTU general secretary Avril Hall Callaghan said: “Earlier this month our colleagues across Scotland were forced to take a similar plea to their government onto the streets when thousands flocked to a march and rally in Glasgow.

“Like us they don’t want the children to end up paying the price for these cuts — a staggering £52m from the 2010-11 budget and £22m on capital investment.

“The minister has told us that such savage savings would make classroom cuts unavoidable — but why should our children pay?

“By cutting back funding now, by seeking the cheap option on their education, this will damage not only our children's futures but the future of Northern Ireland. We simply cannot allow that to happen.”

Ms Hall Callaghan also said Northern Ireland already has one of the highest pupil to teacher ratios (PTR) in the British Isles.

“In Northern Ireland the funding for a primary pupil is 66% of a secondary pupil, compared with 78% in England, 71% in Scotland and 82% in Wales.”

Ms Hall Callaghan also said that in all the years she has been working for the union “never has there been such turmoil and uncertainty in the education service”.

“I would like to call on our politicians to end the uncertainty now. Either give ESA the full go-ahead, or else come up with a way to salvage what is possible to salvage out of the current mess.”

On academic selection, the UTU leader said that some primary schools found themselves this year “trying to juggle the legal requirements of the revised curriculum with the demands being made on them to deliver coaching for tests that were privatised and not sanctioned by their paymasters”.

“This union has always strongly advocated an end to the iniquitous system of academic selection at 11. This union continues to call upon our politicians to reach agreement on a way ahead.”

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