Northern Ireland faces an 'unprecedented' classroom crisis and will be left without a viable education service if proposed budget cuts are implemented, it has been claimed.
Teachers fear it will be ‘impossibe’ to maintain the system on the back of further reductions and believe schools will be plunged into poverty.
The Ulster Teachers’ Union (UTU) has said proposed job losses of 2,500 and budget cuts up to 8% would leave schools inoperable.
“We are not prepared to see the future of the children and young people of Northern Ireland jeopardised,” said Avril Hall Callaghan, General Secretary of the UTU, which represents 6,500 teachers.
“Until now most teachers have attempted to work within the parameters set by the Minister for Education but they have now decided that enough is enough, they can no longer provide what pupils require within the paltry financial pot available as outlined in the Draft Budget."
She continued: “One in five children in Northern Ireland lives in poverty. The UTU believes that if the draft budget is imposed those same children will be going to schools that are in poverty too. Where is the equality so trumpeted by the Minister.
“Without a substantial cash injection for 2015/16 it will be impossible for schools to continue to provide the level of delivery of the curriculum that parents have the right to expect for their sons and daughters.
Ms Hall Callaghan also said Schools and employing authorities, have already been stripped back to the bare bone, with nowhere left to cut, and teachers have shouldered salary cuts of at least 15% in recent years.
She also said the cutbacks would impact hardest on some of Northern Ireland’s most vulnerable children with the special needs sector left especially exposed.
“We are angry that while we have been doing our best to provide an environment where pupils can succeed, and have attempted over the past few years to ensure that no child suffers as a result of the education cuts, we have no expectation we they can continue to do so with a workforce decimated to the extent dictated by the Draft Budget.
“Perhaps though, one of the most worrying things about the proposed budget cuts is the impact it will have on future generations of pupils. Many of our young people are already leaving NI to study for a teaching qualification and will not come back because there will be no jobs for years to come.
“If Northern Ireland is ever to turn its economy around then it will be depending on the quality of its education system. This budget will impact so much on the ability to provide a quality education that there will be huge consequences into the future. Once this level of cuts has been imposed it will not be easily reversed.”