Belfast Telegraph

Unions demand action as Northern Ireland schools face ‘unprecedented funding crisis’

Warning: Geri Cameron
Warning: Geri Cameron
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

Leaders of the three main teaching unions in Northern Ireland will this week call for the Government to intervene to prevent an "unprecedented funding crisis" within the education system here.

Geri Cameron, president of the National Association of Head Teachers (NI), said schools have faced a 10% budget cut over the past five years, yet the classroom population is at its highest for 20 years.

She said this had put an increasing financial burden on parents.

Ms Cameron, who is principal of Loughshore Educational Centre, will be among those giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

Ms Cameron said: "Our schools are facing an unprecedented funding crisis. Without a functioning local Assembly, Westminster must intervene to stop any further damage to our education system. If this is not addressed immediately the detriment will be felt for generations to come.

"We will be using this opportunity to give evidence to the committee to push for greater transparency in how funds designated for education reach children. We will be pushing for radical reform of the education system to ensure that sufficient funding is received and that those funds are used effectively.

"Schools are having to ask parents to cover the cost of the most basic essentials, school buildings are crumbling, children with special educational needs are routinely being denied their right to a basic education due to resourcing constraints. Teachers and principals are doing their best with increasingly limited resources but this cannot continue, we are at breaking point."

The delegation will insist there is a need for radical reform of the education system here and called for greater transparency in how the funding is distributed.

Ms Cameron added: "Whilst public expenditure on education as a whole is similar to that received by England and Wales, by the time that money is sifted through central bureaucracy in Northern Ireland, the amount allocated per child at the school level is much less than neighbouring jurisdictions.

"This is not right; our children are not worth less.

"NAHT is aware that there are eight layers of bureaucracy between a child with special educational needs and the chief executive of the Education Authority.

"It is vital that this inquiry sheds light on how education is funded and why so much is absorbed by central bureaucratic processes when the international trend is for more money to go the front line.

"Northern Ireland schools are subjected to rigorous accounting and inspection processes, yet the centralised agencies who hold the purse-strings are not.

"We do not currently have an Assembly to scrutinise and hold to account how education is funded."

Ms Cameron said that without a Stormont education committee, Education Minister or a Public Accounts Committee, MPs must undertake this function.

"The NI Affairs Committee inquiry must lead a programme of radical reform that will ensure we have a properly funded education system," she added.

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