Belfast Telegraph

Lack of funding sees primary school principal appealing to pupils' parents for donations

By Christine Carrigan

A school principal has asked parents for donations towards classroom supplies because of "drastic" financial difficulties.

Kevin Donaghy, the principal at St Ronan's Primary School in Newry, sent a letter to pupils' families on Thursday appealing for assistance. He warned cuts would have to be made to staff at the school otherwise.

The note made reference to needing money for things such as glue sticks, pencils and A4 photocopying paper as the yearly budget for classroom supplies was only £10 per child.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Donaghy said: "I have 15 classes and I need to have 15 teachers for those.

"Unfortunately I'm in the process of looking at cutting hours of classroom assistants because there are no statutory requirements for them.

"But they are needed to help run our intervention programmes to help children who are maybe underachieving."

Mr Donaghy said the school received a budget of £1,044,000 - the same amount as last year - but with an increase in the number of pupils at the school, it is harder to make the budget stretch.

He added: "We need at least an additional £22,550 in funding to cover these additional pupils.

"How can the Executive talk about early intervention and a good education for all and then make cuts?

"It is the same for all primary schools - we are expected to deliver a high quality education system, but are finding it hard to do so."

The education budget received an increase of £30m in August from the Secretary of State.

But Mr Donaghy stated that this money had already been agreed, accounted for and spent, before the Assembly collapsed earlier this year.

He explained that the lack of funding would mean cuts to services the school receives from the Education Authority like psychology support and the signature teaching programme, which helps students struggling with literacy and numeracy.

He added: "There are longer delays in the assessment of children that we recommend for counselling.

"If we didn't think that they needed help we wouldn't refer them.

"It will get to the point where we will have to pick and choose who we think needs that kind of help more, and that is an unfair position for anyone."

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: "The department is facing major funding pressures across all of its programmes in 2017-18 and is anticipating having to make spending reductions across a wide range of areas in order to live within its expected final budget allocation.

"While every effort has been made to minimise any impact on the Aggregated Schools Budget, some other funding streams that also directly impact on schools, such as the Extended Schools and Entitlement Framework funding, will unfortunately be affected.

"We are fully aware of the challenges that this will present to some schools. It is essential that, where this has not already been done, schools must make the difficult decisions required to allow them to live within their budgets as a matter of urgency."

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