‘Difficult’ decisions ahead for schools after budgets set out

Cash. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Cash. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Northern Ireland’s schools are braced for “difficult” financial decisions after budget summaries were set out by the Department of Education.

The Department has announced summary totals of each school’s share of the budget for the forthcoming year.

While the total amount of cash being allocated remains unchanged compared to last year, an increase in overall pupil numbers means schools are facing “challenges”.

The total amount allocated in the ‘formula funding budgets’ for all schools in Northern Ireland for 2018/19 amounts to £1.167 billion, the same as the total for 2017/18.

The finance director at the Department of Education, Gary Fair, has written to schools to set out the budget situation.

“The outcome for education is challenging and some very difficult decisions have had to be taken,” Mr Fair said in his letter.

He continued: “While the department has been able to maintain the total schools budget in cash terms at £1,167.5m, it has not been possible to fund the additional pressures facing schools in 2018-19.”

“In addition, all schools’ budgets must be managed on the assumption that there will be no further in-year allocations from the department during 2018-19.”

Mr Fair added: “It is important that firm financial management and budgetary discretion is applied and that you take immediate action to review your school’s budget position, to enable difficult decisions to be taken now to ensure that you live within your allocation for 2018-19. While responsibility for agreeing a financial plan rests first and foremost with the board of governors in each school, it is important that, following their robust review and challenge, any outstanding concerns are immediately brought to the attention of the Education Authority to ensure that necessary actions are taken.”

The finance director said: “I fully appreciate the difficulties that this budget outcome will mean for schools and I do not underestimate the challenges ahead.”