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Parents 'donating toilet roll' to Northern Ireland primary school


Appeal: Graham Gault

Appeal: Graham Gault

Appeal: Graham Gault

A primary school principal has said parents are "donating toilet roll" to his school due to budget cuts.

Graham Gault, head of Maghaberry Primary School in Moira, Co Armagh, said there is "no more time for our politicians to play pathetic games" as he urged Northern Ireland's politicians to "set aside petty squabbles" and "stand up for children".

Mr Gault was one of four school principals who gave evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee at Westminster yesterday.

The committee is carrying out an inquiry into education funding in Northern Ireland. Committee chairman, Andrew Murrison, said in the absence of a Northern Ireland Executive, the committee was probing matters that would normally be devolved.

The power-sharing government at Stormont has been collapsed since January 2017 following a breakdown in relations between the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein.

The evidence session came weeks after Northern Ireland's Auditor General warned that the region's education system is "coming close to a financial tipping point".

Kieran Donnelly said the Department of Education and the Education Authority need to act "as a matter of urgency".

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His report found that since the 2012/13 financial year, the number of schools in deficit has increased from 197 to 315.

Mr Gault said the "level of political discourse" in Northern Ireland is "something I wouldn't accept in my playground".

"My children beg for a field of politics that is based around integrity, honesty and authenticity and looks at their needs rather than the needs of party politics and petty squabbles," he told the committee.

"I would say to politicians, we have one chance for the children in my school, it is not an industry, where we can fix a problem in five years time. My children have one goal, and my politicians are playing pathetic games, and I say to them, now is the time to be brave, to stand up and make some difficult decisions. Step up for our children."

Mr Gault said his school performs well in all of the six sustainable school priorities, apart from its financial position.

He said its deficit at the end of this financial year will be around £130,000.

"My school isn't financially sustainable and I have found myself in the humiliating position of begging my parents to support the well-being of their children by providing Pritt Stick, reading books, tissues and soap," he said.

"This isn't a joke, I actually have parents who are donating toilet roll to my school. It's a disgrace."

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