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Northern Ireland education system in dire straits, say teachers

By Allan Preston

Eight out of 10 schools in Northern Ireland will be worse off after the province's new budget is set by the Secretary of State at Westminster, teachers have warned.

James Brokenshire imposed a budget this month after Stormont politicians again failed to reach an agreement to restore power-sharing.

Gerry Murphy from the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) said the 1.5% budget increase for education fell well behind the 4% rate of inflation - and this means schools would be forced to deny some pupils basic services.

"The education system in the north now finds itself in dire straits," he said.

"Some 80% of our schools will find themselves in a negative financial situation at the end of this financial year."

Mr Murphy said the likely consequences of this will be increased class sizes with reduced support services from an already shrinking and overworked teaching profession.

"Principal teachers and volunteer school governors are increasingly finding themselves having to take decisions that are placing them in the role of gatekeepers," Mr Murphy added.

"A mere 1.5% increase in the overall school budget is, in reality, another cut given inflation is running at almost 4% and coming as it does on the foot of a 9% overall reduction in the education budget since 2010/11."

INTO are joining in a major trade union campaign to call for more investment in public services.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said they were "acutely aware" of the financial strain, and would be working closely with their colleagues in the Department of Finance to mitigate the pressures this financial year.

They added: "However, even with the additional resources allocated in-year, the department continues to face major financial pressures in 2017-18 if it is to operate within its budget.

"The department and the Education Authority continue to assess the financial position across the sector on an ongoing basis as the year proceeds."

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