Belfast Telegraph

Hazelwood principal's fury over decision to cut school budget

By Linda Stewart

A Belfast head teacher has said her school could be left vulnerable to legal action after funding for a member of staff was cut only two months before the new school year begins.

Kathleen O'Hare, principal of Hazelwood Integrated College, has called on elected representatives to intervene after she received a letter from the Department of Education (DE) on June 21 that would effectively see next year's budget cut by £85,000.

As a result she has had to cancel a series of vocational courses provided by Belfast Met and will no longer have funding to pay the salary of one member of staff who would have been teaching GCSE and A-level students.

Mrs O'Hare said: "It's a cut too far and it's too late in the year to make this. While this letter from the DE appeared firstly to be good news for us, it is not.

"It retains common formula funding as the same as last year, which is in itself a cut, but also indicates that both extended schools and entitlement framework funding will be withdrawn in the next academic year.

"This amounts to more than the 2.5% cut for us. We have had no notice of this and have already planned and staffed next year with a full-time extended schools co-ordinator who has been employed with us since the beginning of this initiative.

"It is too late for Hazelwood to invoke redundancy measures but I have had to notify her of the intention of the DE to effectively remove her salary.

"I'm deeply disturbed the DE have sent this at the end of June.

"I'm acutely aware that this giving-with-one-hand-while-taking-away-with-another will cut funding more from non-selective schools than grammar."

Mrs O'Hare warned that she could be held personally and professionally liable if the member of staff was made redundant with so little notice.

The letter from finance director Gary Fair said the department faced major funding pressures across in 2017-18 and was anticipating having to make spending reduction across a wide range of areas in order to live within its expected final budget allocation.

It said the extended schools and entitlement framework funding will be affected, and warned that schools must make the difficult decisions required to stay within their budgets.

The Department of Education said: "As Mr Fair's letter stated, the department faces major funding pressures across all of its programmes in 2017/18 and it is therefore anticipated that spending reductions will have to be made in order to live within the expected final budget allocation for 2017/18.

"The department will very soon be in contact with individual schools regarding the impact of budget reductions on extended schools and entitlement framework provision."

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