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Schools warned they face even more budget misery

Principals warn that cuts will have a negative effect on schools and the provision of a high standard of education

SCHOOLS are bracing themselves for even more budget misery after being warned "we can no longer do all of the same things in all of the same ways".

In a letter sent to principals and governing bodies, Education Authority (EA) chief executive Gavin Boyd, said difficult decisions had to be made.

Head teachers are already fighting controversial budget plans which they warn leave them facing "financial meltdown".

Schools are being left to pick up the tab for increases in employers' contributions to national insurance and superannuation. Many warn this will cost them tens of thousands of pounds, with the cash coming straight out of their budget.

For some, this means making teaching and non-teaching staff redundant.

In his letter, Mr Boyd explained the education budget had been reduced by £72.1 million in the last year.

He said this had a direct impact on the EA, which has seen a reduction of £22m in its centre budget. The authority, like schools, must also meet pay and price increases and the increased costs of national insurance contributions.

"It is clear that the authority's position in relation to contingency funding remains very difficult. Please be advised that you should not plan for the allocation of contingency funding during 2016/17 and it is vitally important that schools plan to live within their allocated budgets," Mr Boyd told schools.

"I recognise the difficulties this creates for schools but you will appreciate the very real pressures for the authority as demand for services continues to increase. It is clear that we can no longer do all of the same things in all of the same ways. There will be difficult decisions to be made but our focus, as always, will be on the young people whose lives are directly impacted by the services we provide."

The Association of Principal Teachers in Integrated Schools (APTIS) last night said the cuts were unreasonable.

"Over the last few years we have taken our lead from the minister to `be creative' in managing reduced budgets despite year on year cuts," said Aptis chair and principal of Phoenix Integrated PS Heather Watson

"However, this is not sustainable for any school and the situation will only have a detrimental effect on provision for pupils."

Roisin Marshall, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, added that cuts would have a negative effect on schools and the provision of a high standard of education.

"Schools work hard to deliver the curriculum to a wide ability of pupils and pride themselves in their innovation and commitment to all the children in their care. Such cuts will mean they will have to make difficult decisions concerning redundancies, class sizes and subject choice," she said.

"Cuts to education are both unmanageable and short-sighted, because it is through education that we build a better future."

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