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Crisis in the classroom: Principal hits out at Northern Ireland politicians

By Jonny Bell

A Northern Ireland teacher has said the political stalemate has come to his classrooms, telling politicians they are failing the next generation as he works to manage the strains that come with an ever-decreasing budget.

Kevin Donaghy of St Ronan's Primary School in Newry called the situation he faced "a crisis".

In a letter to parents he said politicians had failed to put aside "old animosities for the benefit of our children". 

Warning of "devastating cuts" to come, the 390-pupil school has already had to cut after school activities and music classes.

He told the BBC Stephen Nolan show: "We are stuck in the politics of the past."

Mr Donaghy added: "Education received an extra £7m last year which isn't forthcoming this year.

"I am faced with inflationary pressures, staff pay rises and increased rates which have to be paid and they are actually eating into the budget. My job is to manage a school budget and with the money I have received this year, it is just not possible to do that."

He said teacher numbers could not be cut given pupil numbers and he was faced with a £100,000 deficit, which was around 10% of his budget, in the next three years.

The principal said that in order to make a budget, he has had to cut such things as music projects and they would have to ask parents to pay for activities which in the past the school had paid for.

"There are very difficult decisions ahead which have to be taken unless more money is forthcoming."

He added: "If we have to make cuts, we have to make cuts. So we have cut all the nice things."

Former education minister Peter Weir told the BBC Stephen Nolan show said a budget had been prepared and there was no need for it to be interrupted by the political deadlock and extra help was needed.

"A budget should have been set," he said before the collapse of the Executive.

"There needs to be considerable investment."

He also said the talks process had been "workman like" and he and the others parties were working through the difficulties.

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