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Revealed: the payoff plans for 2,000 staff in education

By Kathryn Torney

Northern Ireland’s education system could be hit by up to 2,000 job cuts including many teachers under Department of Education proposals, the chair of the Assembly’s education committee has warned.

The DUP’s Mervyn Storey said that teachers are likely to be hardest hit if a mass redundancy plan gets the go-ahead.

A teaching union leader stressed that job cuts would have a serious negative impact on the quality of children's education here.

Papers showing the department’s spending proposals for the next five years were discussed at last week’s education committee meeting.

On top of 188 teacher redundancies likely during 2010/11, the proposals include £253.8m to be spent on redundancy costs within schools and the department in the following four years.

“Any savings to be delivered by departments across the Budget 2010 period will need to be agreed by the Executive and so it would be premature at this stage to provide any further underlying information on numbers, staff groups affected, date of potential redundancies etc,” the paper stated.

Mr Storey estimates this could equate to around 2,000 job losses.

He called on Education Minister Caitriona Ruane to urgently publish her savings delivery plan — which should outline all potential cuts to be made by her department.

The plans were requested from all departments by the Department of Finance and Personnel by August 26.

Also among the committee’s papers is a letter from John Leonard, Departmental Assembly Liaison Officer, to the committee clerk, dated last month.

He said: “The majority of the resource education budget relates to salary costs (around 80%) and it is therefore unlikely that significant savings could be secured from the education budget without reducing staff numbers and impacting directly on frontline services.

“The Minister will be striving to avoid such a scenario and will be looking for support from the committee on this matter.”

He added that, in the context of Budget 2010, it was “even more critical” that the Education and Skills Authority (ESA) should be established without any further delay.

But Mr Storey — who has raised serious concerns about representation for controlled schools under ESA — instead called for a single education board to be established to replace the current five.

“We will not agree to ESA as it is currently proposed but a single education board could immediately deliver savings,” he said.

“This could be done in a matter of weeks by simply amending the 1986 Education Order. It will not be the only way to save money but at least it would be a start.”

Mr Storey said that many parents are worried about the impact of the looming budget cuts on their local school.

“I think there is a cloud of doom descending over many classrooms as they wait to see how the cuts will impact on schools,” he continued.

“I know that small rural schools feel very vulnerable. We need to make sure that any cuts are fair and affect all school sectors.

“The Executive must have a hard look at where money is spent in Northern Ireland.

“We need to prioritise and work out what we really need. I would argue that education should be among the top priorities.”

Belfast Telegraph


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