Ulster Unionist Education Spokesperson, Rosemary Barton MLA, has said the confirmation from the Audit Office that the Education Authority overspent its 2016/17 budget by more than £19m is an indication that the local education system has for some time been facing an untenable funding position.
Rosemary Barton said:
“No one will be surprised to hear that our local schools are finding it increasingly difficult to balance their budgets, but they will be surprised at the sheer pace and scale at which the situation is deteriorating.
“The confirmation from the Audit Office that the Education Authority overspent its budget in 2016/17 is serious, but the reality is we are in a much worse position now than we were then.
“It is my understanding that last year an additional 22 primary schools moved into a deficit position compared to 2016/17, the year which the Audit Office has just reported on. That, combined with the fact that dozens of other schools were already in a similar position, has subsequently resulted in the Education Authority again overspending by approximately a further £20m in 2017/18.
“Growing pupil numbers and year-on-year shrinking budgets are combining to create a perfect storm. Our local education system also faces annual increases in pay costs of approximately £60m, so most frontline savings that can be made, have already been made.
“The initial hype surrounding this year’s Tory/DUP education budget has rightly subdued as people have realised it’s actually £5m smaller than the amount of money that was available last year.
“It is shocking that the funding situation in our local education system is critical and absolutely nothing is being done to resolve it.”