Northern Ireland

Up to £20m to tackle educational underachievement announced by Irish government

Schools serving disadvantaged children have faced the biggest funding cuts, according to a new report (Ben Birchall/PA)
Up to €24m allocated to tackle educational under achievement

Up to €24m (320m) was allocated by the Irish Government to address education underachievement, to support the exchange of teachers and, more broadly, creativity in schools.

The potential funding, to add to ongoing cross-border co-operation on education, was welcomed by Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan, who said it will provide extra support for the most disadvantaged in society.

Education departments on the two sides of the border “will work to develop and introduce a pilot cooperation programme on educational underachievement” in 2024 and 2025 and continue the following two years subject to funding.

Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan
Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan

Mr Sheehan, the party’s education spokesman, said: “This will provide much needed assistance to tackle underachievement. This must be a top priority for the new education minister.

Meanwhile, a warning was issued on Tuesday of further industrial action by school support workers, including classroom assistants, kitchen staff, bus drivers, cleaners and administrative workers. Union representatives issued the warning after meeting Education Minister Paul Givan.

The GMB Union, which represents more than 3,000 school staff in Northern Ireland, said the minister “offered no money for pay” under the recently announced public sector pay budget of £684 million.

Paul Givan said he has written to principals at the schools concerned following his decision
Education Minister Paul Givan (Liam McBurney/PA)

Regional organiser Jim Donley said his members across the Education Authority are “some of the lowest paid in the country”.

Mr Givan said he “made it clear that the resolution of all industrial action is a priority for me”.

He added: “I want all staff in the education sector to be paid at a fair level for the job they do, however there are significant costs associated with a resolution of current strike action.”