Compressed hours at many schools, claims headmaster

Breda Academy principal Matthew Munroe said his school would be in deficit by March
Breda Academy principal Matthew Munroe said his school would be in deficit by March

The principal of a Belfast school that will send pupils home early once a week due to “budget pressures” has said many schools in the Province have already adopted similar measures.

Breda Academy’s principal, Matthew Munro, has written to parents to outline the school’s “essential response to the ongoing budgetary pressures and associated action short of strike action”.

The news follows a warning last month that education in Northern Ireland is at a “crossroads”, with budget cuts leaving some schools facing deficits of over £1 million.

Breda Academy, which has around 800 pupils, will close the school to pupils at the earlier time of 1pm starting next Wednesday.

Speaking on BBC’s Good Morning Ulster, Mr Munroe said he was “surprised” by the media attention the decision had garnered, adding that it was “simply what a lot of other schools have already being doing”.

He added that while his budget was not yet in deficit, the school would be in the red by March.

Mr Munroe was questioned on whether reducing hours was really necessary, given that other schools facing greater financial problems had not cut pupils’ hours.

He said: “The action is necessary because in trying to make our budgets work – and governors have tried very hard – there is actually a point where it becomes impossible.”

He also told how his staff are “under pressure”, working “to the max” in terms of permissible hours they are allowed to teach each week.

Speaking to the News Letter, DUP MLA Christopher Stalford said it was “wrong and immoral” that Sinn Fein’s refusal to re-enter power-sharing is”damaging” children’s education.

Mr Stalford said the latest development was an example of how Sinn Fein’s “unwillingness” to restore the Stormont Executive was having a “real and tangible impact” on young people.

The South Belfast MLA added: “The fact that we are in this position and that pupils are not getting the fullest possible educational experience is deeply concerning.

“No matter what your views on cultural issues, there is nothing more important than the health of our population and the education of our young people.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Andy Allen said he was “angered” by the situation and described it as “simply unacceptable”.

Sinn Fein MLA Caoimhe Archibald said her party wants the political institutions restored, “but on the basis that they deliver for all”.