Peter Weir: NI schools funding crisis can’t be solved with no minister in place

Peter Weir said some schools could need to be closed and others amalgamated to solve long-term problems
Peter Weir said some schools could need to be closed and others amalgamated to solve long-term problems
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The funding crisis facing Northern Ireland schools can’t be solved without “political direction” for long-term changes, former education minister Peter Weir has said.

Mr Weir was speaking after a committee at Westminster said the lack of money is having a devastating impact on schools .

Peter Weir was education minister when Stormont collapsed in 2017

Peter Weir was education minister when Stormont collapsed in 2017

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee published the results of an inquiry into education yesterday, and called for Secretary of State Karen Bradley to inject more money into the school system.

But DUP MLA Mr Weir told the News Letter that while more money is required “immediately” the funding crisis requires more long-term changes that can’t be made without an elected minister.

The Strangford MLA, who was the last education minister in place at Stormont before the collapse of the Assembly, said: “There is both a short-term crisis and a long-term crisis.

“You need some level of financial support injected more or less immediately, or at least within a very short period of time.

“But you also need long-term solutions because we will require changes to our structures of education and the provision of schools right throughout the community.

“But that’s not going to have an impact immediately so we need a mixture of some immediate funding combined with some level of reform.”

Mr Weir believes some of those long-term changes, which could include closing schools and amalgamating others, require a minister to give “political direction”.

“If you’re going to take those larger, strategic decisions then there needs to be political direction for that and political cover for changes such as closing schools.

“That’s why we (the DUP) didn’t want to bring the Assembly down and why we’re ready to go back tomorrow with no preconditions.

“But it’s not just in the schools, it’s in health and other areas.”