Northern Ireland news

ASCL writes to party leaders over ‘bleak financial situation' in schools

ASCL has urged a quick restoration of the assembly to address a growing funding crisis

A SCHOOL principals' body has written to all main political party leaders warning them of a "bleak financial situation" in education.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has urged a quick restoration of the assembly to address the crisis.

More than 450 schools are in deficit, according to the Education Authority (EA).

A Westminster inquiry found that since Stormont collapsed in early 2017, a growing funding crisis resulted in "unmanageable pressures" on schools.

It said increasing numbers of children with special needs were piling pressure on school finances.

Unions have said members have had to dip into their own funds to buy classroom materials and even food, clothing and toiletries for children.

Parties have now received a letter from ASCL Northern Ireland regional officer Robert Wilson on behalf of its 200 members.

"Urgent political decisions are needed to address many issues in Northern Ireland, not least those in education," he wrote.

"For the sake of our young people, who only get one chance, and for the mental and physical wellbeing of our members, who are drained, having continued to work hard in very challenging circumstances to keep our education system afloat, I highlight once again the need for you as politicians to address the financial priorities within our education system, including releasing the funds to break the industrial action deadlock and adequately resourcing the delegated schools' budget."

Mr Wilson added that ASCL was keen to engage further with parties to discuss how the budget strains in schools could be addressed.

HIs letter also highlighted comments from EA Chief Executive Sara Long, who wrote to principals acknowledging "growing frustration with the lack of adequate funding" to fully deliver high-quality learning experiences for all children.

Meanwhile, the NUS-USI students' union has welcomed the latest political talks.

President Robert Murtagh said politicians must take the opportunity to restore the Stormont government and deliver for young people.

"Northern Ireland has now been without a devolved government for almost three years. In that time our public services have been allowed to deteriorate and are now at breaking point. Our education system is so under-funded that schools are having to fundraise for basic supplies," he said.

"Only a third of students from Northern Ireland who graduate in England, Scotland or Wales return after their studies. If politicians want to build a society where young people can see a future, they need to restore devolution and engage with civic society to bring about real change."

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