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Budgets cuts force teachers to pay for classroom equipment, union claims

Gerry Murphy, INTO northern secretary

TEACHERS are taking money from their own pockets to pay for paper, pencils and books, a union leader has claimed.

The northern secretary of Ireland's largest teachers' union called for the next education minister to take action to ensure schools could function at the high levels expected by parents and pupils.

Gerry Murphy of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) was speaking ahead of this weekend's annual Northern Conference in Newcastle.

The gathering comes just days after a group of primary school warned of a financial disaster in education.

Debts are soaring out of control with schools predicted to be £75 million in the red in the next three years.

Figures published by the Irish News last year revealed that hundreds of cash-strapped schools were careering towards serious financial difficulties. Many are are struggling to tighten their belts because millions of pounds have been taken out of the system.

The Irish News also revealed that every school in the north had its spending plans rejected by government, throwing budgets into disarray. Education chiefs were forced to take the unprecedented move due to a "serious deterioration" in schools' finances.

Mr Murphy said it was teachers who were "patching up this underfunded system".

"Teachers are in shops buying the resources needed for their classrooms. It's teachers who buy the paper, the glue, the pencils, the textbooks and they are the people paying for the apps on the iPads. Parents and the public need to be aware this is the case," he said.

"One school was forced to resort to asking teachers to fund photocopying. In addition to contacting various charities, including the national lottery, teachers are perpetually fund raising just to keep schools operating and to provide the services parents expect."

Meanwhile, principals have urged politicians to make education funding a priority.

About 100 school leaders from across the UK are gathering in Belfast for the national executive conference of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT).

"Funding is a huge challenge, with schools being pushed beyond breaking point," said Paul McClenaghan, president of NAHT Northern Ireland.

"On Thursday, voters in Northern Ireland will elect the new administration. Whatever form that takes, and whoever holds the education portfolio, the challenges of school funding should be a priority."

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