More time should be allocated for consultation over controversial new proposals on school funding, it has been claimed.
If education department proposals are implemented, hundreds of schools will have their budgets cut and the funds diverted to those in areas of greater social deprivation.
The 16-week consultation is due to end this Friday. Many head teachers have already spoken out against the proposals, claiming they will be forced to reduce teacher numbers.
According to Education Minister John O’Dowd, the money will be used to raise standards in schools with a higher percentage of children claiming free school meals.
Mervyn Storey of the DUP has urged the minister not to use free school meals as the main indicator of social depravation – highlighting academic research that labels the method a “blunt instrument”.
Michael Keenan, principal of St Anne’s primary in Dunmurry, said many vulnerable children would lose out, and added: “My anger is about the impact that could have on the education of all the children.”
Calling for a longer consultation period, Danny Kinahan of the UUP said: “A new funding model may be necessary in order to tackle the correlation between poor educational attainment and social deprivation. We believe that the current proposals are deeply flawed.”
SDLP MLA Sean Rogers said: “Two meetings in Omagh and Belfast do not constitute an effective consultation process and these meetings must be advertised effectively.”