Teachers welcome extra cash but critics unbowed
There was a mixed response across the education sector and Stormont yesterday as Education Minister John O'Dowd unveiled the new school budgets for next year.
Teachers have given the changes a cautious welcome, while the Ulster Unionist Party has been highly critical.
Irish National Teachers' Organisation official Mary Dorman praised the extra money for schools, but expressed concern that the ring-fencing of funding has been removed.
"We are giving a cautious welcome, we will watch to see how this actually works out in the school budgets themselves to know if it actually does meet the needs of schools," she said.
"We note the fact that he is going to make some sort of transitional funding available to schools who will initially be losing out.
"Funding is a driver in education and so we would hope this will drive it in the right direction, but we are concerned."
Ms Dorman, who teaches in the special needs sector, said she has worried over the removal of ring-fenced money and how that might impact in her area.
Paul Sheridan, principal of the Model Primary School in Londonderry, praised Mr O'Dowd for listening to concerns.
Under the proposals issued last year, his school was set to lose £16,000, but now he says it will not be losing out.
"We are pleased that the minister has made a decision not to go ahead with the proposals that were set out, it gives us breathing space," he said.
"We are aware of the fact that it is only a temporary measure. However, to be fair to the minister he has listened to opinion and thankfully he hasn't implemented what he outlined. Our budget is now safe for at least a year and we can breathe a bit easier.
"Overall, we are glad that we aren't going to be working with the proposed budget and certainly welcome the fact that the minister has listened and changed his mind."
UUP education spokesman Danny Kinahan said some schools would be very hard-hit when the transitional funding runs out.
"Yes, some of the criticisms highlighted during the consultation process have been taken on board in the revised funding formula, and that is to be welcomed," he said. "However, even with extra, short-term, one-year transition funding, a minority of schools are already being hit very hard indeed."
Sinn Fein education spokesman Chris Hazzard said he was delighted that an additional £30m would be spent on education for children in deprived areas.