Belfast Telegraph

Funding that gives pupils choice of subjects cut by almost half

Funding given to schools in Northern Ireland to allow them to offer a greater range of subjects is set to be cut by almost a half.

The 'Entitlement Framework' guarantees the minimum number of courses available to students at GCSE and A Level, something that the Department of Education says "puts the needs of the pupils first" and which "aims to provide access for pupils to a broad and balanced curriculum".

Part of delivering the Entitlement Framework involves schools and further education colleges sharing resources.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Education said: "The Department recognises the importance of the services provided in meeting the requirements of the Entitlement Framework, but given its current financial position, it cannot continue to provide the existing level of funding without having to implement further reductions to the Department’s core services.

"There are a range of funding mechanisms in place to support schools and it is best that individual schools have the freedom to manage how they deploy their own budgets."

It followed on from the recent announcement of the indicative budgets for Northern Irish departments made by Secretary of State James Brokenshire.

The department stated that its aim when finalising its budgets was to ensure that it minimised "any impact on its core early years, youth and school services to children and young people". 

According to the BBC, the budget for the service will be cut from £4.9m for the 2016/17 budget down to £2m for the forthcoming academic year - which works out as a decrease of around 43.5%. 

Responding to the cuts, Sinn Fein's education spokesperson Karen Mullan said that this was an example of local schools paying the price for Tory-backed cuts to the subvention grant given to Northern Ireland.

"Since the Tories came into power we have seen over a billion pounds cut from the North's block grant and local schools and local children are paying the price for this," said the Foyle MLA.

"In recent weeks Sinn Fein have engaged several times with the Department and the Education Authority to push back against cuts and protect school budgets."

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