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£120m windfall saves Northern Ireland school jobs

By John Mulgrew

Schools were awarded a massive windfall last night after it was revealed they are set to receive a sizeable boost in funding in an attempt to help save hundreds of jobs across Northern Ireland.

It was announced that an extra £120m of funding would be provided for education over the coming three years, almost wiping out the current funding shortfall.

The Department of Education said the decision was made following talks convened by the First and Deputy First Minister and would see the additional allocation spread over the next three years - beginning in 2012/13.

According to the department the cash injection will be "going straight into school budgets".

It's not yet clear where the money was found.

Last night, the Education Minister John O'Dowd said the announcement would come as "welcome news for schools" across the province.

"Since my appointment as Education Minister I have consistently highlighted the fact that the education budget faces unprecedented financial challenges over the next three years," he said.

"I said that I would argue the case with Executive colleagues for further investment to help alleviate pressures on school budgets. I am extremely pleased, therefore, that my arguments have been listened to and welcome the additional allocations over the next three years of £30m, £15m, £75m, as confirmed by the Finance Minister."

The additional funding will help plug the big shortfall in funding the Department of Education has been forced to deal with.

It saw its budget slashed by £126m as a result of a reduction of Stormont's block grant from Westminster.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson is now expected to announce a breakdown of the education budget on Tuesday.

Mr O'Dowd said he would be contacting schools in the coming weeks to outline his plans for the allocation of spending.

Last night's news comes as some 200 schools across the province have fallen into deficit.

Schools across Northern Ireland are facing an uncertain future, with some post-primary schools in the red by £600,000.

Only six weeks ago, thousands of teachers across the province went on strike over budget cuts and threatened job losses.

Avril Hall Callaghan, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union welcomed the additional funding and said she hoped it would "avoid hundreds of job losses in schools".



Additional £30m = Total budget: £1.123bn


Additional £15m = Total budget: £1.113bn


Additional £75m = Total budget: £1.138bn

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