Ulster Unionist Party Education spokesperson, Rosemary Barton MLA, has warned that the model of funding schools across Northern Ireland has to change if they are to avoid financial breaking point.
Rosemary Barton said:
“Whilst I obviously welcome the fact that there will be no major cut in this year’s education budget, the reality is a flat line budget is a cut in real terms. This year the funding schools actually receive is the equivalent to 2013 levels, with no account taken of inflationary increases or even basic increases in salary.
“The mantra of doing more with less has been pushed to its absolute limit so I fear that the pressures schools are already facing will only increase.
“Already in Northern Ireland class sizes are swelling, parents are increasingly being asked to step-in to meet gaps in school budgets, key school initiatives such as after-school clubs have been scaled back and now a growing number of schools are running up frightening annual deficits.
“As a former teacher of over 30 years I know just how difficult it is for schools to continue delivering a high quality education when they are not being given the resources to do so.
“I am also realistic enough to realise that there is a crisis in funding right across public services in Northern Ireland. The DUP/Tory money looks as far away now as ever, and even if it was received several DUP politicians have already been keen to downplay what the level of funding for education will even be.
“I believe the education system must use the money it already has more-wisely. It is outrageous that schools in Northern Ireland only receive 59% of the overall education budget, far behind the levels of other UK regions, with the rest increasingly being consumed by a swathe of growing administrative bodies such as the Education Authority.
“It’s about time the Department of Education seriously considered what its primary purpose is – ensuring our children receive the best quality education or propping up the ever growing number of backroom bodies that are merely sustaining the sectoral divisions within the local school system.”