Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Hundreds of jobs face axe to save school budgets

Hundreds of jobs will be lost in a bid to save further cuts to dwindling school budgets, it has emerged.

More than 300 posts could be axed over the next two years by the education authorities in the areas of management and administration.

John McGrath, deputy secretary of the Department of Education, said the move was necessary to “protect the school budget as much as possible”.

He made the comments during a briefing at yesterday’s education committee on the findings from the Department of Finance and Personnel performance and delivery unit (PEDU).

A review of school meals and home to school transport by PEDU has also identified areas where further efficiency savings can be made.

The final report — which is due to be made public by the Education Minister early next year — found variations in practice between the education and library boards.

Stage one of the review found “significant variation” in the average cost of a school meal.

It costs £2.25 in South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB), but 55p more in the North Eastern Education and Library Board at £2.80 per meal.

Around £2.2m could be saved if the cost of direct materials could be brought into line with SEELB, the initial report notes.

An analysis of transport costs also revealed that the cost of transporting a pupil in the WELB is £734, but is more than double that (£1,741) in BELB.

Mr McGrath said: “We await sight of the final reports. Based on the draft reports, we can advise the committee that the reports provide very useful analytical evidence that will potentially allow further savings to be identified in both areas (transport/catering).”

Background

In July 2010, the Executive agreed that education and health would be exempt from the budget adjustments resulting from the UK Government’s decision to reduce the funding available to the Executive for 2010/11.

This was on the condition the ministers of both departments agreed to PEDU exploring cost reductions.

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