Around 670 primary schools in Northern Ireland will lose millions of pounds in funding if new proposals by the Sinn Fein Education Minister John O’Dowd are passed, it was claimed yesterday.
DUP chair of the Education Committee Mervyn Storey said last night in the Assembly that non-Catholic schools would suffer most.
Earlier the Principal of Cregagh Primary in Belfast, Ronnie Milligan, said the plan “will see 80 per cent of primary schools across the board lose out on funding”.
He said the proposals — published in June and due to be closed for consultation in October — are a “crude attempt to put more money into schools with a large number of children who are socially deprived and are entitled to free school meals”.
“Schools with a high number of pupils requiring free school meals are going to receive a considerable amount more funding than schools requiring less free meals,” the member of the Northern Ireland Primary Principals Action Group added. “Only roughly 20 per cent of schools will gain out of these proposals.”
Mr Milligan, 59, said his school of 155 pupils “along with every other school in Northern Ireland during the economic recession has seen an increase in the number of children claiming free meals”.
“I have seen an increase from 25 per cent to 36 per cent in the last two years,” he said. “My school is a state school serving the Cregagh estate and you would expect under these proposals I would be a winner, if you put it in crude terms, but I am going to be down £5,500 per year which is 1.2 per cent of my budget. This is not a desperately large amount, but it is a real kick in the teeth for socially deprived children. He has robbed Peter to pay Paul and it is totally and utterly unacceptable.”
He said that teachers and special assistants will be lost in some schools.
North Antrim MLA Mr Storey said that of the five school boards “only Belfast would see an increase [in funds]”.
Looked at by sector, he said, “85 per cent of Controlled Primaries lose while 15 per cent will gain. In the Maintained sector 76 per cent will lose while 24 per cent will gain”. He said that if the DUP advanced such plans “there would be uproar on the benches opposite and calls for an equality impact assessments and accusations of sectarian politics”.
Mr O’Dowd said an independent review had recommended funding be directed to deprived pupils.
“One of the key reasons I initiated the review of the Common Funding Scheme was because I did not believe that the current scheme properly supported our children and young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds,” he said.