Weir ‘adds insult to injury’ with school funding plans: unions

Teachers in Northern Ireland are to highlight their pay dispute with protests at school gates next Tuesday
Teachers in Northern Ireland are to highlight their pay dispute with protests at school gates next Tuesday

Plans to provide £7m extra funding for schools by reducing staff costs have been branded “a new low” by Northern Ireland’s largest teaching union.

At the DUP conference at the weekend, Education Minister Peter Weir announced £14 million of additional spending power to schools.

However, in a letter to schools this week, the minister has stated that half of the cash injection is to be funded by savings made as a result of a recommended pay settlement for teachers.

Teaching unions recently rejected a pay deal following months of negotiations, which saw employers offer no rise for last year and a rise of 1% for 2016-17.

The unions say salaries for teachers in NI are falling behind their counterparts in England and Wales.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) has claimed that the minister’s decision will only serve to “stiffen the resolve” of teachers to support an escalation of industrial action.

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said: “It is staggering that a minister has attempted at the conference to present a further pay cut for teachers as a good news story for schools.

“It is deeply disappointing that rather than seeking to address the concerns of teachers and seek to avoid the strike action the NASUWT has already announced, the minister adds insult to injury.”

Justin McCamphill, NASUWT national official Northern Ireland, said the move was “a new low” for the education service.

He added: “Teachers are being asked to bear the brunt of the failure by the Executive to properly ring-fence education from the cuts.”

Teachers across the Province are set to mount protests outside school gates on Tuesday, November 8 to highlight the pay dispute.

In a statement to the News Letter, Mr Weir said the package brought forward by the teachers’ negotiating committee was “realistic and still allows teaching staff to progress along the pay scale, in addition to a cost of living increase”.

He added: “I am confident that teachers will see the benefit to pupils in securing additional spending power to schools.

“It is about finding the right balance between protecting school budgets and delivering a fair increase to teachers’ salaries.”

In his letter to schools, Mr Weir said the other half of the £14m funding for schools will be reallocated from the overall education budget.