Financial outlook for NI's education system 'significantly more challenging than sector faced to date'
THE financial outlook for Northern Ireland's education system is "significantly more challenging than anything the sector has faced to date", it has been warned.
Leaders of eight bodies representing all schools in the north have issued a joint call for "sustainable and sufficient funding" for the education sector amid the deepening crisis.
The chief executives met with the four main political parties on Thursday to press for support.
In a document signed by the eight education leaders, they say "this unprecedented situation can only be fixed" if a "strategy for education to provide direction and enable leadership at all levels across the system" is established.
They are calling for sustained investment in education, money to improve school buildings and a "greater recognition of the significantly important role education plays in shaping, investing and protecting the future of our children and young people".
It comes amid recent warnings from the Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris that the Department of Education needs to make significant cuts to its "current spending trajectory".
The Education Authority (EA) had subsequently said it cannot deliver the savings required.
In their joint call for action, the education leaders say they "remain very concerned about the ever growing, unprecedented, pressures facing education which will carry into the next financial year and the potential detrimental and significant impact this could have for children and young people".
Issues affected, they say, could be the day-to-day running of schools, special educational needs support, transport and catering.
The chief executives add that the "financial outlook for 2023/24 is significantly more challenging than anything the sector has faced to date".
"The funding provided by the Secretary of State in the Autumn Budget Statement, whilst very welcome, was non-recurring in nature and therefore the underlying financial pressures of almost £300m that the EA was reporting earlier in 2022/23 have not been addressed," they state.
"Coupled with 2023/24 anticipated pay and price inflation, continued projected growth in demand for SEN services as well as proposed budget cuts across the Northern Ireland public sector generally, the result is a projected funding shortfall that is very likely to be well in excess of £0.5 billion for the incoming financial year."
The document is signed by representives of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, Controlled Schools Support Council, NI Council for Integrated Education, Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta, Catholic Schools' Trustee Service, Governing Bodies Association, Transferor Representatives' Council and the EA.
They add that they will "continue to work collectively and in the best interests of children".