FE cuts set to hit secondary schools


Savage budget cuts to further education colleges will have a knock-on effect for Northern Ireland secondary schools, it is warned.

Schools have been told they will not lose any money from their delegated budgets in the next financial year after extra cash was found for education.

There must still be multi-million pound savings made by education boards and also by the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL), which is responsible for further and higher education.

It is feared the range of subjects available to all post-primary pupils will be affected by the cut to further education.

Every secondary school in the North is now required by law to provide their pupils access to a minimum number of courses at key stage 4 and post-16. At least one third must be vocational and one third academic.

This year they must offer 21 GCSE subjects and 24 A levels, and next year these numbers will increase to 24 and 27 respectively.

The idea of the “entitlement framework” is to provide access for pupils to a broad and balanced curriculum.

The Department of Education  (DE) says this will “enable them to reach their full potential no matter which school they attend or where they live”.

Many smaller secondary schools are unable to meet the demands alone meaning they collaborate with neighbouring schools, or nearby further education colleges.

Further education staff also often provide lessons in secondary school settings.

Now, Colleges NI, the body representing the North’s six further education colleges, says the proposed budget cuts will significantly reduce their ability to help schools.

“The further education sector plays a key role in helping to deliver the entitlement framework to post-primary schools across NI,” said chief executive Gerry Campbell.

“The proposed budget cuts in DE and DEL will significantly reduce the ability of FE to continue to deliver in this area.

“This will result in a reduction in student performance outcomes, and increase in those not in education, employment or training (NEETS) and widening of the education gap.”

Mr Campbell added that a rethink of the draft budget proposals is urgently required, “otherwise hopes of rebalancing the economy will be adversely affected”.


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