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Findings from report on Common Funding scheme ‘damning’ – Kinahan

Ulster Unionist Education spokesperson, Danny Kinahan MLA, has called upon the Department of Education to ‘get to grips’ with the findings of a recently published independent report into the Common Funding scheme.  The Independent Review team, led by Sir Robert Salisbury, found that the Scheme is failing to maximise opportunity for all pupils and failing to target educational under achievement, especially in areas of social deprivation. 

Welcoming the publication of the report Danny Kinahan, who is also Vice Chairman of the Education Committee in Stormont, said; 

“This report has come at a very fitting time; our education system is facing its biggest reform, and possibly challenge, in many years in the form of the proposed establishment of the Education and Skills Authority. The panel was tasked with determining how to ensure that the Common Funding Scheme is fit for purpose, sufficiently targets social needs and is consistent with a range of other Departmental policies and commitments.’ 

“I have no doubt that the findings of the report will come as very sobering reading for the Education Minister. The Panel found that the current scheme is widely failing students and that the Minister has done little to rectify it.’ 

“I am concerned that funding to tackle social deprivation is small, only 3% of the Aggregated Schools Budget, despite the linkage between deprivation and underachievement. This is in spite of many claims from the Department that they are working to address the problem.’ 

“I was pleased to note that the Panel also made a number of recommendations which the Ulster Unionist Party first called for in September. These include replacing Free School Meals Entitlement as a measure of deprivation and the introduction of much stronger support to tackle the link between deprivation and underachievement. I have called on the Department, on several occasions now, to introduce a Pupil Bonus Scheme in Northern Ireland in which schools would get additional resources depending on the number of pupils they enrol coming from deprived backgrounds. I believe my proposal has now been further backed up with the finding in the report that other countries spend significantly more money tackling these problems per pupil than in Northern Ireland. The rate varies as much as only £400 per pupil in Northern Ireland, to £823 in England and up to £2,500 per pupil in Australia.’ 

“The report has raised a number of interesting findings which I will now be seeking clarification on.  For instance, it found that there is significant variation in the ratio of delegated spending to centrally controlled spending between Education and Library Boards. I believe that schools and local bodies are in a much better situation to spend money more efficiently and focus it on areas which will have the best educational outcome for all concerned.’  

“I therefore strongly agree with the recommendation from the panel that the Department of Education explores the practical implications and legislative or procedural changes required to allow any school to adopt the systems of financial management operated for voluntary grammar and grant maintained integrated schools.” 

In conclusion Danny Kinahan said; 

“This report has produced many useful recommendations and I for one will be asking the Department not how, but when, it will be implementing many of them. Much of what has been produced will not have come as a surprise to many people, but the scale of the overall problem, may well do so. Whilst I wouldn’t agree with each and every finding, not least those on reviewing the funding for small schools, I would now call upon the Minister of Education to start rectifying what really is a catalogue of failures.”

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