Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Primary pupils 'treated as second class citizens'

Principals' group hits out over lack of funding and resources

The Northern Ireland Primary Principals' Action Group (NIPPAG) today accused the Education Minister of treating the youngest children in society as second class citizens.

In May 2007, NIPPAG, which represents over 500 primary school principals across all school sizes and sectors, held a conference for all primary school leaders and eight resolutions were forwarded to the Department of Education.

To date, little or no action has been taken by the department to alleviate the critical problems facing primary schools in Northern Ireland, the group has claimed.

NIPPAG representative and principal of Cregagh Primary School in east Belfast Ronnie Milligan said: "The minister and her department accept that primary education is under resourced but have done little or nothing about it.

"Last year's 1% shift in funding to the primary sector caused dismay amongst primary principals and governors and was branded as insulting by NIPPAG. Such an insult must never again be delivered to primary school children."

He said it is important to note that a child in primary seven attracts core funding of £1,900, while two months later - when they transfer to secondary school - they attract £3,135.

"This means that children in secondary education have smaller class sizes and access to support staff including technicians and school nurses while primary schools do not," he continued.

"Teachers in secondary education have non teaching hours to allow planning, preparation and assessment time to reflect on their work, while primary school teachers do not have this time. Indeed some primary school principals, who also have to teach, have less preparation time than the most junior teacher in their neighbouring secondary school.

"Secondary schools have multiple administrative staff, some including bursars, to help cope with the ever increasing burden of bureaucracy. Primary schools faced with the same burden have very little administrative support at all.

"Primary schools are having to implement the Revised Curriculum and numerous other initiatives with inadequate resources, poor quality training and no time to plan new ideas into their work. The potential benefits of the Revised Curriculum will be severely compromised.

"The promise of classroom assistants in primary two and primary three has been withdrawn leaving primary schools to deliver a programme designed to be supported by additional help."

"NIPPAG are concerned that the complexity, volume and quality of work now expected of primary schools cannot be delivered with the resources provided.

"Staff are at breaking point, having to cover multiple tasks which are covered by additional staff in secondary schools and having to plan, prepare and assess pupils' learning without the time provided for teachers in secondary education.

"The result of this pressure is unbearable stress and the situation is plainly unfair to primary school children and their teachers.

"Are we really prepared to allow primary school children in Northern Ireland to remain as second class citizens? This is a scandalous state of affairs which must be addressed."

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