Education news

South Belfast school to close early over budget pressures

Breda Academy in south Belfast has announced it is closing early on Wednesdays due to budget pressures and industrial action

A SOUTH Belfast secondary school has blamed budget pressures and ongoing industrial action on its decision to close early one day a week.

Breda Academy on Newtownbreda Road yesterday announced Wednesdays will now be a "compressed day" with pupils finishing at 1pm. The move is set to begin from next week onwards.

In a letter to parents, principal Matthew Munro said the move was "an essential response" to "considerable budgetary pressures" and ongoing industrial action by teaching union.

"I appreciate this may represent an inconvenience for some parents and students but we have tried to select the day in a way that it makes it easier for parents to adapt any routines in a simple and consistent way," he said.

"As I have said this is an essential response to the ongoing budgetary pressures and associated action short of strike action that constrain all Northern Ireland schools to a greater or lesser degree."

The letter to parents states that students will not have registration on Wednesdays, but will instead begin classes at 8.35am.

The principal also said lessons will be cut to 30 minutes on this day with a longer morning break instead of lunch.

The move comes just two weeks after organisations representing principals, governors and school finance managers said many schools were in a "critical situation", facing budget deficits of as much as £1m.

DUP MP for south Belfast, Emma Little-Pengelly said she had been contacted by several parents concerned about the reduction of teaching time for pupils.

In a post on her Facebook page, she said: "I am in contact with the Department of Education, the Education Authority and I will be raising this issue directly with the principal on Friday morning at the arranged meetings".

Breda Academy previously hit the headlines in September 2015 after a group of parents complained about the school's strict uniform policy.

The academy is an amalgamation between Knockbreda High and Newtownbreda High.

Meanwhile, in a joint statement last night teaching unions the INTO, NEU and Ulster Teachers' Union said they would redouble their efforts to halt education cuts.

Avril Hall Callaghan, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union, said the education system is experiencing pressures not seen since shortly after the Second World War.

"We're at a make or break point, make no mistake. For a few years we have been warning against the tightening fist of fiscal austerity in our schools," she said.

She said teachers had been forced to "make up the slack".

"However, the simple truth is there is no more slack. Now it's going to get personal – personal to every parent with a child in Northern Ireland's education system."

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