School leaders warn 'it's make or break time' on budgets
SCHOOL leaders are to hold a public meeting to demand better funding for education - warning "it's make or break time".
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said schools were facing a financial crisis.
The union is hosting a meeting in Derry this week to address concerns.
It follows a report from the auditor general in which he said the north's education system was coming close to a tipping point.
Kieran Donnelly highlighted pressure on budgets, increasing pupil numbers and schools with sustainability issues. He found that while funding had increased between 2012/13 and 2016/17 there had been a 9.3 per cent reduction in real terms.
In that time, more schools have found themselves in the red.
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in Westminster is also examining whether the levels of funding allocated to education are sufficient to meet the challenges facing the sector.
Last week, it heard from primary and secondary principals.
Graham Gault, head of Maghaberry PS, told the committee he found himself in the humiliating position of "begging my parents to support the wellbeing of their children by providing Pritt Stick, reading books, tissues and soap".
"This isn't a joke, I actually have parents who are donating toilet roll to my school. It's a disgrace," he said.
The NAHT has said it wants to see more money put into the education budget overall and schools given control over a greater share.
In contrast to the rest of the UK where 2-10 per cent is retained at centre, schools in Northern Ireland only receive a maximum of 59 per cent of the overall education budget directly.
In addition, the union wants a revision of the basic amount given to every pupil "to sustain the real costs of a child's education".
"The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into education funding in NI," the union said.
"In the absence of a functioning Stormont assembly this inquiry is an important opportunity for local school principals, school staff, parents and governors to highlight the impact of funding cuts on education and what this means for children."
It added that investment in education must be a priority.
"This situation is unacceptable. In order to protect the future of our education system and ensure that every child's needs are met we must have a properly funded education system," the NAHT said.
:: The meeting will take place on Wednesday November 7 from 4-5pm at Holy Family PS in Derry.