Northern Ireland schools funding ‘at make or break point’ after £19m overspend
The financial crisis in education is now "at a make or break point", a teaching union official has warned.
Jacquie White, the deputy general secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union, was responding to comments by Department of Education permanent secretary Derek Baker, who says the education system here is facing unprecedented financial pressures.
Mr Baker's remarks come in newly published departmental accounts for 2017-18, which reveal the Education Authority overspent its budget by £18.9m, due mainly to increased expenditure on schools and pupils with special educational needs.
Mr Baker added that the absence of an Education Minister has resulted in "significant and unique challenges" in relation to budgets, policy development and delivery, which won't be fully addressed until there is significant transformation of the sector.
But Ms White says the funding crisis in education is now "personal" to every child in Northern Ireland.
"Mr Baker isn't telling us anything we or sadly the parents and children at the sharp end of the education crisis don't know already," she said.
"Something must be done before we go beyond the point of no return and it's too late - a point which is getting perilously closer. We're at a make or break point, make no mistake."
Irish National Teachers' Organisation Northern Secretary Gerry Murphy said he was glad that Mr Baker has woken up to what has been a reality for schools for some time.
"Hopefully he will now join with all the teachers' unions in campaigning for additional funding for education. The future rests with our young people and a future worth having is one that we will need to invest in now," he added.
UUP education spokeswoman Rosemary Barton said the current situation is "untenable".
She said: "If schools are forced to go any further then I fear the quality of education being delivered to our young people will quickly begin to deteriorate."
SDLP MLA Colin McGrath urged Sinn Fein and the DUP to resolve their differences and "deliver for our children's education and, above all, their future".
But Sinn Fein MLA Karen Mullan said children and families should not have to bear the brunt of "relentless Tory-DUP austerity".