Belfast Telegraph

Parents buying books, pencils, glue, sellotape for schools: Cost of Northern Ireland education crisis laid bare

Schools 'beyond breaking point,' says head

Children are suffering due to the lack of government at Stormont, primary school principals have said.
Children are suffering due to the lack of government at Stormont, primary school principals have said.

A Northern Ireland principal had revealed the cost, both monetary and otherwise, that the crisis in education funding is having on staff, parents and pupils.

Graham Gault of Maghaberry Primary School was speaking on BBC Radio Ulster after penning a letter to head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service David Sterling, saying that children are "suffering" and teachers are "on their knees" due to the lack of a functioning government,

Mr Gault's letter, sent on behalf of the Strategic Principals' Forum, was supported by 540 other primary school principals.

The letter asked Mr Sterling to raise the issue of education funding during the latest round of Stormont talks aiming to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

Similar letters are also being sent to school governors and parents in each of the schools, in which the principals say they have a "moral obligation" to speak out on the issue.

Mr Gault said that the letter was sent as primary schools across the country are "beyond breaking point".

He told the BBC that school budgets were insufficient and the cost was being passed on to parents and teachers.

"There is no costs left to cut. To ask schools to cut their cloth is an insult. Our children are suffering directly because of a universal lack of maintenance in our schools," Mr Gault said.

"There are significant reductions being spent on learning resources. Essentials such as reading books, novels, we're having to ask parents to buy those. We're trying to find every avenue to save expense without taking anything away from our children.

"Our parents provide pritt stick, they provide pencils, sellotape, blu tack. Teachers provide basic essentials, laminating pouches, polly pockets etc.

David Sterling
David Sterling

"The only place left to reduce money is our staff and that impacts on our most vulnerable children."

The Maghaberry Primary School principal said the political matters dividing parties were unimportant to pupils who need action now.

"The issues that our politicians are debating and refusing to get back into government over are not issues relevant to the children in my school," he said.

"Little children with complex learning needs in a nursery - the past is irrelevant to those children. They need our government to step up and provide for them."

The letter, penned by Mr Gault, says that school leaders are "crying out for help" and suffering "increasing levels of stress and anxiety".

It said that Northern Ireland does not "prioritise the learning and development of our children at government level".

Maghaberry Primary School principal Graham Gault
Maghaberry Primary School principal Graham Gault

"We require a functioning government which prioritises our children, which promotes their healthy growth and development, which protects them from harmful economic fluctuations and which puts their futures ahead of our collective past," the letter read.

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