Ulster Unionist Party Education spokesperson Danny Kinahan MLA has called for the government funding which is delegated to schools - the aggregated schools budget - to be ring fenced. The South Antrim MLA has said the Education Minister must look elsewhere for cuts in his budget.
Mr Kinahan said:
“The Education Minister has always emphasised that the standard of education is his top priority, and yet if he proceeds to cut all schools by 7% - the reduction proposed in the aggregated schools budget- standards will inevitably be compromised. Under Sinn Fein, the Department has thrown money at non-core teaching areas such as Area Planning, the non-delivered Education and Skills Authority, additional new Irish language schools, and short term pet projects without any proven outcomes. All our schools are already struggling. Stress levels and teacher workload means many are near breaking point.
“I have been consulting school Principals asking them what the practical consequences of these cuts in the draft budget are, and asking for suggestions regarding where the Department could save money. From the responses I have already received, the devastating consequences on the frontline of education are abundantly clear. We will have far fewer teachers, vastly increased workloads, virtually no classroom assistants, huge class sizes and administrative cuts to schools. The effectiveness of teaching and the capacity of schools to manage children with special or complex needs will lead to a tsunami of problems.
“It is time for the Minister to be bold, and to look at what the absolute core priorities are, and to ensure they are delivered. We need to consider parking or postponing some of the big spending initiatives that are being considered. Schools themselves can, in many cases, save money by organising maintenance, cleaning, catering, and many other services cheaper at their end. Much more of the budget needs to be delegated to schools themselves.
“Under the proposed new Education Authority, we have a chance to streamline how we service the schools, and we must do so. The Minister needs to totally revise his Department’s budget plans and protect the aggregate schools budget in Northern Ireland.”