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Reform 'must run parallel to O'Dowd plan'

BY ANNA MAGUIRE

Reform is needed so a controversial schools funding shake-up can be implemented, the principal of a school set to gain from the plans has warned.

Brian McAlea, the principal of St Kieran's Primary School in Poleglass, which is set to receive £180,000 extra a year, says that the planned funding changes will be a fruitless exercise if reform does not follow.

He has called for internal school assessments to be recognised by the Department of Education and the schools' inspectorate as a measure of a school's academic standards. Only then can the impact of increased funding to socially deprived schools be measured effectively, he said.

The results of Key Stage assessments are used to indicate how a school is performing. They are the source of dispute between the department, schools and teaching unions.

Without these measures, he fears a backlash against schools perceived not to be using the extra funding effectively.

Mr McAlea believes it will take 10 years before the impact of the reforms will emerge.

Education Minister John O'Dowd has said he wants to break the ingrained link between pupils' social disadvantage and poor academic prospects by redirecting funding to Northern Ireland's most deprived schools, at the expense of hundreds of others.

But principals continue to question how schools benefiting from the changes should channel the extra funding to curb the effects of social deprivation.

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