Belfast Telegraph

DUP hit back at UUP criticism as they outline additional education funding secured by party

Former education minister DUP MLA Peter Weir said his party have secured education funding
Former education minister DUP MLA Peter Weir said his party have secured education funding

By Eimear McGovern

The DUP has hit back at UUP criticism that the additional funding secured by their party in the confidence and supply agreement hasn't made its way to education in Northern Ireland.

It was revealed on Wednesday that 562 schools across Northern Ireland are now operating under a deficit, an increase on 239 in 2015/16.

The number of schools in a surplus position has fallen from 785 in 2015/16 to 451 in 2018/19, according to the UUP MLA Rosemary Barton.

The education spokesperson and former teacher said this is the first time there have been more schools operating under a deficit rather than a surplus.

"The revelation that more than half of all our local schools are now in debt debunks the myth that the confidence and supply arrangement between the DUP and Conservative Party had removed the pressures on school budgets," said Mrs Barton.

"Many of the school leaders that I talk to tell me they haven’t seen a penny of the extra funding."

In response, the DUP MLA and former Education Minister Peter Weir said no other party has delivered a penny of extra funding for Education since Stormont's collapse.

"The Ulster Unionist Party would like to portray that confidence and supply money isn’t affecting lives here. Let’s debunk that myth.

"Recently our party leader welcomed an extra £500million for education resource funding over the next three years starting from 2020/21. We pushed for money in the latest Spending Review for the Government which produced £400million, a portion of which will be allocated to education. This is on top of the additional funding which has already been delivered as a result of confidence and supply," he said.

He said this includes £25m to meet the overall needs of schools and Special Needs Education and extra funding for much needed programmes in 2018/19 and 2019/20.

These include: £12.8m for 38 Sure Start programmes, £1.4m for literacy and numeracy projects, £2.6m for 31 nurture units, £4.6m for Early Years Pathway Funding and £11.6m for Extended Schools projects for 473 schools in Northern Ireland.

"There are significant pressures on school budgets and we recognise the challenges that principals are faced with. That’s why the DUP have continued to make the case at the heart of Government in Westminster for extra funding," he said.

"However money alone will not fix education in Northern Ireland. What we need is a functioning Assembly with a Minister in place to set priorities and deal with the ever mounting in-tray of decisions.

"It’s time Sinn Fein lift their boycott of the Assembly to help our schools and hospitals."

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