Ulster Unionist Education Spokesperson, Rosemary Barton MLA, has warned that the rapid increase in the number of pupils in Northern Ireland’s schools is exacerbating the funding crisis that schools are finding themselves in.
Following the publication of the final 2018/19 enrolment figures by the Department of Education it has been confirmed that there were 1,700 more pupils enrolled in post-primary schools, and a further 800 more in primary schools.
Rosemary Barton, a former teacher of over 30 years, said:
“The recent budget announcement will do nothing to allay the serious pressures our schools are facing.
“A record number are already in a deficit position and as a result the Education Authority is likely to record yet another major overspend this year – this time in excess of £30m.
“Schools in recent years have been trying to cut down on costs by reducing the numbers of teachers and classroom assistants they are employing. As a result, class sizes generally have swelled.
“Yet with a rapidly increasing pupil population those class sizes are growing even faster and now I fear that some schools are having to choose between inappropriate staffing levels or spending money that they simply do not have just in order to meet the needs of their pupils.
“There is a major challenge in education funding right across Northern Ireland and it’s clear the current model is no longer fit for purpose. Yet in the absence of a local Minister or functioning Assembly it would appear inevitable that the problem is only set to get worse.
“The situation cannot continue. Either we establish a local Executive to get on with the things that matter most to people, or the Secretary of State should stop sitting on the fence and introduce Direct Rule.”