Belfast Telegraph

'Inadequate budgets' putting pressure on schools in Northern Ireland

Barry Mulholland
Barry Mulholland

By Gillian Halliday

Northern Ireland's controlled schools sector is facing increasing financial pressures, including budgeting for electricity, it has been warned.

Barry Mulholland, chief executive of the Controlled Schools' Support Council (CSSC), outlined the systemic challenges facing head teachers as the academic year comes to an end.

Mr Mulholland said yesterday that school teachers are being forced to operate within "inadequate budgets", which are subject to ongoing cuts.

And he warned that urgent action is needed to address the crisis.

"Schools continue to face hard decisions relating to what curriculum they can offer, what staff they can afford to employ and, in some cases, how they are going to keep the lights on," he said.

"While finance is one of the priority areas that needs to be addressed, principals are also having their resilience tested by societal perceptions of the education system."

Mr Mulholland explained that schools are seen as a "panacea" for a wide range of community ills, "all of which are expected to be tackled with little or no resource".

This, he added, is coupled with increasing bureaucracy, which is "detracting" from the core focus of educating and adding to a perception that teaching is not valued enough.

"Controlled school leaders strive to provide high quality education for the 143,669 pupils who walk through their doors every day and help them to meet their potential," he said.

"The number of children presenting with complex special educational needs is on the rise, which is affecting both special schools, many of which are at capacity, and mainstream schools, which require resources to support pupils."

Mr Mulholland explained that principals and teaching staff want to be involved with the "learning, growth and development" of their pupils.

"I pay tribute to the dedication and professionalism of principals, teachers and boards of governors who make this happen," he added.

"The importance of education cannot be underestimated and we must always have children and young people's interests at the centre of it."

The organisation will continue to strive to tackle the problems faced by the sector, Mr Mulholland insisted.

"CSSC supports nearly half of Northern Ireland's schools and we continue to work with key stakeholders to address systemic challenges," he added.

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