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360 schools in Ulster finish up in the red

Minister told to urgently address education funding

By Lisa Smyth

More than 360 schools across Northern Ireland were in the red during the last financial year, it emerged today.

North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey said the figures, released by the Education Minister showed that Caitriona Ruane must urgently address the issue of funding in the education sector.

In response to a question submitted to Ms Ruane by Mervyn Storey, the minister revealed that a total of 362 schools were running on a financial deficit during 2006/07.

While the figures are down by over 100 on the previous year, Mr Storey maintained that more must be done to resolve the problem.

According to the Department of Education, 165 controlled schools were running in deficit, compared to 172 in the maintained sector, seven in the Irish Medium sector, five in the integrated sector and 13 in the voluntary grammar school sector.

Both the Irish Medium and voluntary grammar school sector saw the number of schools in debt increase by two compared to the previous year, the integrated sector remained the same, while an improvement was seen in the controlled and maintained sectors.

Responding to the figures, Mr Storey said: "We need to establish why these problems are arising. I'm not a big believer that if there is a problem you just throw money at it and it will go away.

"According to my calculations, about 27% of controlled schools, 33% of maintained schools, 36% of Irish Medium, seven percent of voluntary grammar and 25% of integrated schools were in debt last year, so although things seem to have got better more still needs to be done.

"Ultimately, if the minister takes the same view as she has done with the classroom assistants that it is everyone else's responsibility then she won't do anything about this, but she is the minister and the buck stops with her.

"I don't think this issue can be looked at as a fly in the ointment. We don't know what effects these deficits are having on the children. We need to know why the schools are running at deficit and look at how resources are being spent. What is the underlying problem? That is the only way this can be sorted out."

Belfast Telegraph


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