Deficit letter angers union

Written by: Simon Doyle | Published:

Teaching unions have hit back at a letter issued to schools in Northern Ireland warning them to avoid going into debt.

School heads are coming together to refuse to make any more budget cuts.

Debts are soaring across Northern Ireland schools, with them predicted to be a combined
£75 million in the red in the next three years. This was before the stalemate at Stormont meant no budget was agreed.

Secretary of state James Brokenshire has since indicated that a Stormont budget he would impose would cut 2.5 per cent from the education pot – a loss of around £50 million.

Schools are saying they will not make cuts that have an impact on children’s education.

Now, the Department of Education’s finance director Gary Fair has written to schools to tell them they cannot plan for deficits.

Mr Fair says that while the secretary of state announced indicative budget positions for all departments, no decisions have been taken.

It is not known, he says, how this will impact on the various elements of the education budget in advance of decisions being taken by an incoming minister.

He says he is concerned that some headteachers say they will be planning for deficit budget positions over the next three years.

“Guidance on Financial Arrangements clearly states that deficits (as well as large surpluses) must be avoided,” he added.

But the INTO union says this letter is unwelcome and does nothing to alleviate “the dire situation many of our schools find themselves in”.

Northern secretary Gerry Murphy said: “Principals are in an impossible situation faced with the moral and professional imperatives of meeting the needs of the children in their care and satisfying the duty of care that rests with them towards their colleagues in the face off unreasonable financial dictats.

“Demanding principals prioritise budgetary considerations above the needs of children and staff is akin to asking doctors to ignore the Hypocratic oath.”


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