Local primary school heads take job cut fears to Minister
Head teachers from primary schools across Castlereagh have taken their concerns over potential changes to the education system directly to the Education Minister, John O'Dowd, with a meeting at Stormont on Monday (November 11).
Members of the Castlereagh Principals' Group spoke to Mr O'Dowd about the impact changes to area planning, the common funding formula and early intervention will have on the primary school sector.
Leadhilll Primary School principal Anne Millis says the proposed changes would mean job losses at her school.
Mr O'Dowd says he is trying to address educational inequalities and give additional help to schools in disadvantaged areas by altering the funding formula.
"The changes will mean Leadhilll will be down a considerable amount of money – the projections are between £8,000 and £12,000," said Mrs Millis. "And the only way we can save that amount of money is by losing staff.
"I'm in a small school, we have 96 pupils and five teachers; I can't afford to lose staff, there's nobody to spare, and really it just means that the children aren't getting what they deserve.
"I have 20% free school meals but that's not enough to classify me on the new common funding formula scheme for any consideration and in fact I would need to get to 40% to be considered so it's a big jump; you're not going to get that with one or two children.
"But what we were finding as a group of schools, is that some of the schools in our area do have a higher free school meal ratio than Leadhilll, but they're still losing money.
"The Minister suggested that there were anomalies in the formula and that he is looking into those anomalies and nothing is decided, it's all very much being worked through and that he was listening to our concerns.
East Belfast MP Naomi Long arranged the meeting in response to concerns being brought to her over the implications of any changes to the current system.
"I felt it was important for the Education Minister to hear directly from primary school principals of the consequences that these processes are having on the ground," she explained.
"It is vital for there to be a proper dialogue between the decision makers and those who will be forced to implement any changes.
"It was a very constructive meeting and the principals I feel were reassured that the Minister was in listening mode and responded to their comments.
"We now hope that he will take those concerns on board as he develops a way forward on these crucial issues," she added.