‘Anger’ as 632 school budgets turned down

Rosemary Barton MLA

The decision to refuse budget plans of over 630 schools has sparked “anger and bewilderment” among many principals, an Ulster Unionist MLA has said.

The Education Authority turned down the spending plans because those schools were unable to show they could stay within their allocated budgets in 2017/18.

A further 239 schools have had their annual budgets approved.

UUP education spokesperson Rosemary Barton said the move illustrates the scale of the funding crisis facing Northern Ireland’s education system.

And she called for an urgent review of wider education funding, stating that the current model is “increasingly not fit for purpose”.

Describing the current situation as “untenable”, Mrs Barton added: “The problems in our local education system continue to grow by the day. Class sizes continue to swell, subjects are being cut, buildings are becoming increasingly run-down and shortfalls in school budgets now increase year-on-year.

“Many of these schools have exhausted all reasonable cost reducing measures. Our education system faces annual increases in pay costs of approximately £60m and this has largely been passed on to school budgets in the previous three financial years. The subsequent impact has been schools experiencing major deficits in their budgets.”

The Education Authority said it was working with the affected schools “to help them develop plans which demonstrate they can live within their budgets”.

A spokesperson said the education sector is facing “significant financial pressure”, adding: “The Education Authority and principals have recently highlighted the challenges facing school budgets in particular.

“We continue to highlight the increasing financial challenges facing the education sector and the growing demand for services as we move in to 2018-19 and beyond.”

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