Northern Ireland news

Funding cuts for disadvantaged pupils in Northern Ireland branded ‘shameful'

The axe of funding supporting schools in helping disadvantaged children has been described as “devastating” and “shameful” by a trade union (PA)
Catherine Wylie, PA

The axe of funding supporting schools in helping disadvantaged children has been described as “devastating” and “shameful” by a trade union.

The Department of Education in Northern Ireland has written to the headteachers of schools participating in the Extended Schools Programme to tell them funding is “no longer available”.

The project, which launched in 2006, supported activities such as breakfast and homework clubs, sport, art and drama.

More than £150 million of funding has been provided through the scheme since it began.

In its letter to headteachers, the department said schools should plan on the basis no further funding will be available after the end of the current academic year.

The letter said the programme has been supported in recent years with £5.8 million funding from the Confidence and Supply agreement.

“This funding is no longer available and, due to the extent of budget pressures, it is not possible for this to be covered from the Department of Education’s budget,” it said.

Headteachers were told the interim allocation for the programme has been set at £2.285 million, and the letter added: “This represents a reduction in budget of £6.868m from that available in the 2022/23 financial year and an overall reduction of 75%.

“Consequently, unless additional funding is allocated by the Secretary of State, funding can only be provided for the Extended Schools Programme to the end of the academic year, June 2023.

“Only those schools that continue to fully meet the Extended Schools criteria will receive funding and they will shortly be advised of the indicative funding available for the period April to June 2023 to allow provision to continue until the end of the current academic year.

“Schools should plan on the basis that no further funding will be available after June 30 2023.”

Alan Law, assistant secretary at Nipsa, said: “This announcement will be devastating for the futures of children and young people across Northern Ireland.

“It is yet another example of the failure of politicians to govern and leaving the futures of a generation of young people to the indifference to an unaccountable Secretary of State.

“The communication from the Department advises schools to plan that no additional funding will be available from June 2023.

“The programme is being wrecked and the valuable and important work destroyed. It is shameful that these decisions are being taken without anyone being accountable.”

Justin McCamphill, NASUWT national official for Northern Ireland, said the cuts come on top of the ending of the Engage Programme, the Holiday Hunger programme and the Healthy Happy Minds pilot.

He said: “If these cuts go ahead we will see the end of breakfast and homework clubs, after-school sports, art clubs, drama clubs, ICT clubs and programmes for parents and families as well as community use of school premises.

“There can be no expectation that teachers will fill the gap on an unpaid basis.

“This decision is being made in the context of wider cuts to education and against a backdrop of accelerating real-terms pay cuts.

“The Department of Education should be in no doubt that cutting services will only strengthen the resolve of NASUWT members as they take strike action next week.”

Northern Ireland news