Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland schools face £350m cash black hole with 400 in red

Schools are finding it harder to answer the question of how to make ends meet.
Schools are finding it harder to answer the question of how to make ends meet.

Schools in Northern Ireland are facing a £350million funding black hole, an education official has warned.

Education Authority chief executive Gavin Boyd gave the stark assessment of the budget crisis with a warning some 400 schools will be overdrawn at the end of this year.

He told the BBC those schools would be in the red to the tune of £50m collectively with 2017-18 set to be the first year ever school deficits will outstrip school surpluses.

The increase in pupil numbers was said to be one contributing factor.

One principal told the BBC she faced sleepless night and all because of her school's financial situation.

Another, Principal of Hazelwood Integrated College, Kathleen Gormley said she would "love to have the luxury of going into the red".

"That is simply not an option for my school and many others," she said.

"I am expected to meet the growing population of north Belfast, employ staff for that and the extra expenditure and all with a decreasing school budget."

She said her teachers were undertaking work in their own time "out of goodwill and that goodwill is being eroded, the least that could be done was a 1% pay rise could be released".

"Decision needed to be taken before you have a serious issue... sometimes its not about making a right or wrong decision, it's about a decision."

Mr Boyd said eduction funding had dropped behind the rate of inflation representing around a £200m deficit since 2010 and if his organisation's budget did not increase there would be a funding gap of around £350m by 2020.

Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle said as well as a need for additional investment there needed to be radical reform of the education system. He also said parents were being relied upon increasingly to bridge the funding gap.

He said, like health, an expert panel should be appointed to review the system and make recommendations on reform.

"This is about taking the politics out of this and taking necessary action," he said.

"The status quo is not an option."

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