More than 450 schools in financial deficit

Written by: Simon Doyle | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

School principals in Northern Ireland are warning political leaders of a “bleak financial situation” in education.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) is urging a quick restoration of the devolved assembly to address a crisis. Parties are also meeting education bodies to discuss the shortfall.

The North’s Education Authority estimates that more than 450 schools are in deficit. Since Stormont collapsed in early 2017, a growing funding crisis is causing “unmanageable pressures” on schools.

Unions warn that teachers are having to buy their own classroom materials and even food, clothing and toiletries for children.
Talks to restore the assembly and executive are continuing.

In a letter, ASCL Northern Ireland regional officer Robert Wilson urges parties to “explore every avenue open to you to ensure that a devolved administration is quickly restored”.

“For the sake of our young people, who only get one chance, and for the mental and physical wellbeing of our members, who are drained, having continued to work hard in very challenging circumstances to keep our education system afloat, I highlight once again the need for you as politicians to address the financial priorities within our education system, including releasing the funds to break the industrial action deadlock and adequately resourcing the delegated schools’ budget.”

He adds that ASCL is keen to engage further with parties to discuss how the budget crisis in schools can be addressed.

The body representing state-controlled schools, meanwhile, is also meeting politicians to discuss budgets.

Members of the Controlled Schools’ Support Council senior management team have met DUP leader Arlene Foster and former education minster Peter Weir.

Chief executive Barry Mulholland says schools face serious challenges: “There has been insufficient resource made available to the education system,” he explained. “This is now resulting in extreme pressure on school budgets and essential support services.”

During the meeting with the DUP, it was also emphasised that a strategic approach is required to tackle underachievement among Protestant working class boys. “This is a widely acknowledged cultural disparity which needs to be taken seriously and addressed,” Mr Mulholland said.


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