Following an audit of the Education Authority’s 2017-18 accounts which confirmed an overspend of £16.6 million, Ulster Unionist Education Spokesperson Rosemary Barton MLA has said that whilst the shortfall was concerning, it was half of what schools locally overspent their budget allocations by in 2018-19.
Rosemary Barton said:
"Growing pupil numbers and year-on-year tightening budgets have been combining to create a perfect storm for our education system. Whilst the audit of the EA's 2017-18 accounts were deeply concerning, the reality is that the recent situation for the financial year just ended was far worse.
“Last month I revealed that I had been informed directly by the EA that schools across Northern Ireland estimated they would overspend their Common Funding Formula allocations in 2018-19 by £32m. That was even after planned savings and additional income of £10.7m.
“Schools are increasingly being left with no choice but to spend money that they just don’t have. As a result, a record number of them are now reporting a deficit position and this will ultimately contribute to a record overspend in the EA’s annual accounts.
“The revelation that the EA overspent by £16.6m in 2017/18 and by £32m within schools in 2018/19 again totally debunks the myth being peddled by the DUP that their arrangement with the Conservative Party has somehow removed the pressures on school budgets. As I said last month - instead of the problems being fixed, they’ve never been worse.
“The Comptroller and Auditor General has been very clear that Northern Ireland urgently requires a review of school funding arrangements. I wholeheartedly agree. Yet to do so requires a Minister and local Executive, and with Sinn Fein intransigence continuing to block the reestablishment of the local institutions, this is just another example of why direct rule should be rolled out now.”