Belfast Telegraph

Minister's cuts affect all areas of education

By Rebecca Black

Education Minister John O'Dowd has unveiled a raft of cuts that affect everyone from pre-school children to staff at a new education body that has yet to start work.

While bad, the situation is less bleak than in December following a £64m shot in the arm by Finance Minister Simon Hamilton - although the Department of Education still faces a huge funding gap of £97.6m in 2015/16.

In revealing to the Education Committee where he plans to make his cuts, Mr O'Dowd said he had managed to find an additional £28m savings in his department.

Of this, £10m was immediately diverted to the budget of the new Education Authority due to take over the running of the system in April. However, the EA will still face a budget cut of £9.9m.

Some of the other cuts outlined yesterday included the schools maintenance budget - reduced from £22m to £14m.

The schools enhancement programme is being cut, as well as the budgets for early years programme Sure Start and Stem programme Sentinus. The Youth Council budget will be reduced by £1m.

A number of programmes will be cut completely including one for the teaching of languages in primary schools, one on nutritional standards for school meals and one on community engagement.

Meanwhile it is understood that a proposed cut to the funding of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education has been reduced from £100,000 to £35,000.

But Education Committee chairwoman Michelle McIlveen has claimed that the minister has not put the classroom first.

"While the minister is predicting redundancies across the education system today, he has only recently announced the opening of an unsustainable new post-primary school with a projected intake of just 14 pupils," she said.

"Parents, pupils and staff across every sector will look at how a decision such as that can impact on the education of every child in Northern Ireland."

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