Northern Ireland news

Education facing 'crisis situation' amid funding gap next year of almost £370 million

Education is facing a 'crisis situation', committee members have heard

EDUCATION is facing "a crisis situation" amid a funding gap next year of almost £370 million.

The assembly education committee was yesterday also told that the gap was likely to increase in subsequent years.

Figures indicate that the sector faces a funding gap of around £367m in 2022/23, £450m in 2023/24 and £543m in the following year.

Amid already overstretched budgets and increasing pressures, committee members yesterday said "the long-term effects will be dire" for young people.

SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said it was "worrying, disturbing and going to have dire consequences for the education of our children".

"It's only going to get worse, it's a worsening situation that needs to be recognised by the assembly. I think it is a crisis situation," he said.

"I think we ask the minister for finance to appear at this committee, if that is possible, so that we can explain to him the considerable financial pressures that are facing education in Northern Ireland and obviously the consequences of those challenges for our young people and their education."

Mr McCrossan also said he believed they needed to shine "a very bright spotlight over this".

"Ultimately if our children are going to be the losers in this situation by consequences of a lack of investment in education, the long-term effects will be dire and we need to deal this head on," he said.

"The finance minister holds the purse and we need to draw his attention to how serious the situation is and we need to try and see if we can re-prioritise things to deal with this situation, before it is too late."

Sinn Féin assembly member Pat Sheehan also said "a serious injection of funding and investment into our education system" was needed.

He said "between £350m and £500m...has been stripped out of the education budget over the last number of years".

"It would be easy to point the finger at the executive and members of the executive when really the fundamental problem rests in Westminster and Downing Street," he added.

Committee chairman Chris Lyttle also highlighted that members had "raised the alarm about the financial crisis in education for a number of years and the need for both investment and reform of the public services to adequately fund and provide for the education system".

"Clear action is needed," he said.

But the Alliance MLA suggested the committee took a week to "consider a course of action" and asked members to "reflect on the scale of these pressures and consider the best action the education committee could take in response".

"It is clear and has been clear for some time that decisive action is needed to avert a funding crisis in education," he added.

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