Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland schools to spend £32m over budget - MLA

The UUP's Rosemary Barton
The UUP's Rosemary Barton

An Ulster Unionist MLA has claimed Northern Ireland schools are going to overshoot their budget by more than £30m at the end of this financial year.

Rosemary Barton said the Education Authority had informed her of a £32m deficit in budgets which comes after savings and additional income over over £10m added to the pot over the past year.

“This is a wholly untenable and unsustainable situation," she said.

"The Secretary of State can no longer get away with just sitting on the fence and showing a total lack of concern – she must either force the establishment of a local Executive to get on with the things that matter most to people, or announce her Government’s plans for the immediate introduction of Direct Rule.”

Over the past year education leaders have sounded warnings of perilous finances. At a Commons committee last year head teachers said they were relying on the charity of parents for essentials. One teacher even said parents had been supplying toilet roll for his school.

UUP education spokeswoman Rosemary Barton added: "Growing pupil numbers and year-on-year tightening budgets are combining to create a perfect storm.  The pressures have been building from 2010/11, but have greatly intensified from 2016/17 onwards.

“The revelation that our schools this year are £32m short of key funding also debunks the myth from the DUP that their arrangement with the Conservative Party has somehow removed the pressures on school budgets. Instead of the problems being fixed, they’ve actually never been worse.

“Schools in recent years have been desperately trying to cut down on costs, including by reducing the numbers of teachers and classroom assistants that they are employing. As a result, class sizes have inevitably begun to swell and that is something I know from my over 30 years in teaching will now only come to the detriment of the young people.

“There is a major challenge in education funding right across Northern Ireland and it’s clear that the current model is no longer fit for purpose. Yet in the absence of a local minister or functioning Assembly the problem will only continue to get worse."

The Department of Education could not be reached for comment.

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