Northern Ireland news

Almost 1500 school staff made redundant

Assembly member Daniel McCrossan. Picture by Mal McCann

ALMOST 1,500 classroom staff have left their posts in the last four years, new figures show.

The number of teachers leaving schools is more than 150 a year while a significant proportion of support staff have also been made redundant.

It has been warned that the education system is facing a £350 million funding gap by 2019/20 if it does not get more money.

Since 2011, it is estimated that there has been a reduction in the education budget of around £200m in real terms.

Schools are struggling to tighten their belts. It was estimated that more than 300 schools were facing a deficit in the current financial year. In addition, those that have been saving money are seeing their surpluses being reduced.

Principals have warned repeatedly that austerity cuts would mean redundancies of teaching and support staff.

Jobs are under threat, they said, adding that fewer teachers would mean bigger class sizes, more composite classes and split year groups.

Now, new statistics show the numbers of redundancies financed by the Public Sector Transformation Fund, which is used to support voluntary exit schemes across the public sector.

Since 2015/16, 692 teachers and 738 support staff have left their jobs.

The figures were revealed in a letter from Department of Education Permanent Secretary Derek Baker to SDLP West Tyrone assembly member Daniel McCrossan.

Mr McCrossan said the high numbers reflected the overall financial pressures faced within the department.

"These figures are extremely concerning and reflect the real crisis the education system has been in over recent years. We've had cutback after cutback on school budgets and this is tangibly reflected in these numbers," he said.

"I have met with school principals, teaching and support staff over recent weeks who are concerned about cutbacks, their futures and the future of their schools. Principals have told me explicitly, unless something is done immediately, they have no option but to made staff redundant as they try balance their books.

"Education here is in crisis and these figures underscore this. We cannot let education here die a death by a thousand cuts and the public, teachers, and staff deserve a lot better. Education is in crisis and it’s worrying that the political vacuum is not allowing for cuts and budgets to be properly challenged."

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