School exams body blasted for spending £500k on stationery
The public body that sets examinations in Northern Ireland has been blasted for spending more than half a million pounds on stationery.
The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) also confirmed following a Freedom of Information Act request that it has spent almost £300,000 in just one year on catering.
The figures come as school principals are told that the funding they receive to offer more subjects to pupils is to be almost halved.
It can be revealed that CCEA regularly spent more than £100,000 a year on stationery until 2016/17 when the figure reduced dramatically.
The body spent £108,629 in 2012/13, £105,938 in 2013/14, rising to £126,408 in 2014/15 and £111,710 in 2015/16. The figure for the 2016/17 financial year was just £63,293. This totals £515,978 in just five years.
CCEA also confirmed it had a set budget for catering at meetings for 2017/18 which is £292,581.
It added that this figure covers teacher training, moderator meetings, examination meetings and other events for teachers and students.
The education body has been criticised in the past for its spending, including its catering budget, at a time when school budgets are being squeezed and teachers' unions remain in conflict with employers over pay and conditions.
However, a CCEA spokeswoman said it has also faced cuts with a £2.8m (13%) budget reduction.
"We have worked hard to absorb these pressures in house and to continue to provide a quality examination and curriculum service," she said.
Yesterday it emerged that schools who work together to deliver the "entitlement framework" have been told that their funding to deliver it is to be reduced by 43.5%.
This represents a cash reduction of £2m from the 2016/17 budget of £4.9m.
A letter from the Department of Education to principals said the cut is "due to pressures on the education budget".
Ulster Unionist MLA Rosemary Barton said the move is "just the latest example of how the political stalemate at Stormont is having a detrimental impact on young people".
SDLP MLA Colin McGrath added: "This cut is part of a bean counting exercise that doesn't reflect the value of this kind of work."
The Ulster Teachers' Union said: "At a time when schools are sending what amounts to a 'begging bowl' around parents for help to supply what should be often basic requirements, it seems excessive that CCEA can justify almost £300,000 to spend on tea and buns. To discover on this of all days, as schools reel from the fall-out of yet another catastrophic cut, that CCEA can find over £290,000 to spend on 'catering' is a bitter pill."
A spokesperson for CCEA said: "Stationery is used in the examination and curriculum processes, such as the use of envelopes to send out students' GCSE and A-level certificates.
"Our annual spend on stationery has reduced significantly as we have been able to move more of our work online."