An independent panel tasked with reviewing the North’s “common funding formula” wants to increase the amount of money for primary schools. Secondary budgets could be hit as a consequence.
The review team, headed by leading educationalist Sir Robert Salisbury, says the current formula is outdated and too complicated.
Sir Robert wants the North’s Department of Education to end the practice of awarding extra funding to small post-primary schools, irrespective of their circumstances. He wants money to instead be invested in socially disadvantaged pupils.
His review also speaks about the disparity between primary and secondary school funding in Northern Ireland. On average a secondary pupil is worth about £1,500 more.
Sir Robert’s review recommends an increase in the proportion of funding allocated to primary schools, but believes some restructuring at post-primary must first take place.
The report states: “Historically, post-16 provision, mainly A levels, was offered in grammar schools and some non-selective schools. “In the last decade, there has been a significant increase in the number of pupils studying post-16 courses in schools and in the range of courses followed.
“While the increase in pupil numbers is clearly desirable, the panel is concerned that the current model of post-16 provision is not fit-for-purpose.”
Small 6th forms, with poor curricular offers, often offering provision that is available elsewhere, are a particular concern.
“The panel feels 6th forms must be of a sufficient scale to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum at reasonable cost.
“Retaining a pupil in school may help maintain core 6th form numbers in a school, but may not always be in the best interests of the pupil.”
Members of the review panel, meanwhile, appeared before the Northern Ireland assembly’s cross-party education committee to discuss their report.
Members heard that more money needed to be diverted towards primary, but such a change had to take place gradually.
Immediately taking large amounts of money from post-primary budgets would create “havoc”, the committee was told.