Education news

Schools warn budget cuts creating `critical situation'

School leaders are warning that financial pressures will lead to dramatic reductions in the quality of classroom provision

SCHOOL governors and principals say they are facing a "critical situation" due to budget cuts.

Leaders of more than 80 of the north's largest post-primary schools released a joint statement on budget allocations.

Debts are soaring, with schools predicted to be millions in the red over the next three years.

The overall education budget, announced in July, is £24m less than the closing 2016/17 budget.

An additional £10m was found, but schools and education bodies are still being forced to make savings.

The extra money came from the reallocation of cash across Stormont departments, but heads say they are yet to see a penny.

Unions have warned that cuts will mean schools will find it impossible to maintain their high quality of education.

Now five organisations, including the Catholic Heads Association and Association of School and College Leaders, have issued a joint warning.

The lack of funding, they said, meant "a reduction in subject choices at GCSE and A-level; even larger class sizes; a potentially shorter school day and poorer learning environments with cuts in maintenance, administration, technical support, cleaning and resources".

In addition, they warned there might be an increase in non-specialist teachers delivering the curriculum and "reduced educational opportunities for a generation of pupils".

"The financial challenges facing every type of school are real, urgent and will have a significant impact on the learning opportunities for the current and future generations of pupils in our schools," the statement read.

"The finances distributed to schools have already been stretched to breaking point by successive cuts in recent years and all reasonable cost reducing steps have been exhausted by schools.

"The schools we represent are forecasting major and unrecoverable deficits over the next three years. Individual school deficits are predicted to range from £150k to over £1 million over this period highlighting a crisis in the funding position for our schools."

They added that they believed the financial pressures would lead to "dramatic reductions in the quality of frontline classroom provision".

"In the absence of the Northern Ireland Assembly, we call on the secretary of state and the Department of Education to urgently address this funding crisis within schools.

"Surely Northern Ireland's priority must be to invest in the future of our children."

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