School principals across Northern Ireland are angry and frustrated because they have not yet received confirmation of their budgets for this financial year, it was claimed today.
The Department of Education has played down the problem, saying the matter will be considered by the Assembly later this month and that schools can continue to deliver their services without knowing how much they can spend.
However, the president of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), has said that the situation is driving some principals to despair.
Ivan Arbuthnot, who is on secondment to the NAHT from his role as principal of Priory Integrated College in Holywood, said: “We have been told that we should soon get indicative budgets — a ‘guesstimate’ — which will put funding at the same as last year.
“However, some schools are already in deficit and we all have increasing costs so it is likely that many schools will have to make staff redundant to save money.
“The human side to this is that it is causing many schools a lot of angst and anguish. Some head teachers are at despair stage.”
Mr Arbuthnot said that water bills in his school have gone up from £600 to £10,000.
He said: ”There was another budget crisis back in the mid-1990s, but it was not as bad. In my 21 years as principal, I don’t remember it being this bad.”
Frank Bunting, northern secretary for the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, said: “Principals are in an impossible position.
“Without figures they have, in many cases, been unable to determine staffing new starts or redundancies. It's certainly no advertisement for devolution.”
A spokesman for the Department of Education said: “As the Executive had not agreed the 2010/11 budgets before the start of the new financial year, the Department of Education wrote to education and library boards and schools to advise of arrangements for continued access to resources until the budget was agreed.
“The budget is due to be considered later this month and the department will be confirming exact allocations for schools as soon as possible after that.”