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Decision must be made on future of funding programme: principal


Liam McGuckin

Liam McGuckin

Liam McGuckin

Doubts remain over the future funding of a scheme set up to help children back into school following Covid closures.

The Department of Education has still not committed to making funding available to continue the Engage Programme after the summer break.

Funding was made available to allow schools to develop new programmes that would help re-integrate children back into the school environment through high-quality one-to-one and small-group sessions.

Schools have found the support a huge help in improving the education and wellbeing of pupils.

However, there are now fears that if the programme ends, around 1,000 teachers who gained short-term employment will no longer be required.

Launched in September 2020, £16m was invested in the programme by the department, followed by a further £16m announced in June 2021 to cover the school year that’s just about to end.

Head teachers were allowed to use the money released as they needed in their schools.

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The department said: “The minister is aware of the significant impact which the Engage Programme has had on supporting children and young people in their learning and is keen for it to continue in the 2022/23 academic year.

“Discussions are ongoing and a decision will be made as soon as possible.”

Schools last week voiced concerns over how they are expected to plan for the new academic year, with just two weeks remaining in the current one.

Liam McGuckin, principal at Greenisland Primary School and president of the National Association of Head Teachers, called on the department to make an urgent decision.

He said as many as 1,000 teachers have been left unsure on whether they will have employment from September.

“There are just a few weeks left in this school year. We have to be able to plan for next year, but we can’t do it.

“We were able to bring in teachers, probably over a thousand across all schools, to help with the Engage Programme.

“We are not in a position to say whether they will have a position next year or not.

“It was very welcome to see that school meals will be extended over the summer months, but can there not be a decision on other pressing issues like Engage as well?”

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