Tim Attwood: Politicians should heed the cry for help from schools

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As a dad of a nine-year-old and six-year-old twins, I believe strongly that one of the hardest jobs around is being a good teacher.

I wonder sometimes how teachers cope with 30 little people with different needs, when I have the joy of dealing with my three little treasures.

Yet on a daily basis you witness is the professionalism, care and compassion of teachers who work tirelessly to support their children, shape their character and talent for the future.

Last week a number of courageous School Principals addressed Belfast City Council, not out of desire but necessity, to highlight the impact of the proposed 2.5% cut in the education budget by Secretary of State James Brokenshire.

Schools still remain the one constant pillar of our community, a place of learning that can always be relied upon to be open and welcoming and an oasis of calm and hope for children who live in communities often overwhelmed by disadvantage and disorder.

It is clear from speaking teachers and principals that they are at breaking point and schools are in state of crisis. The 2.5% was the final straw but the crisis has been building for many years.

The result is an education system straining to hold it together, relying on the goodwill of teachers and Principal.

Morale is at all-time low as the pressure to save money gets ever more relentless. Overloaded by bureaucracy, paperwork and box-ticking, teachers now have to be parents, therapists, social workers and sometime police officers as they have to deal with the plethora of self-harm, behavioural problems and other community problems presented in school.

Writer Natasha Devon has said: “When the teachers are gone, exhausted and burned out from doing what the state should – supporting the needs of the most vulnerable in their community – who will pick up the pieces?”

Let all politicians listen to this cry for help from principals and act to ensure schools get the full resources needed to support our children through education.

Tim Attwood, SDLP councillor, West Belfast