Northern Ireland

Warning 'should be heeded' about 'catastrophic' consequences if education cuts continue

Cuts are predicted to disproportionately impact the most educationally disadvantaged children and young people
Cuts are predicted to disproportionately impact the most educationally disadvantaged children and young people Cuts are predicted to disproportionately impact the most educationally disadvantaged children and young people

WARNINGS from experts that there will be "catastrophic" consequences if education cuts are not reversed "should be heeded".

The call comes after researchers detailed the severe impact education cuts could have on children and young people in Northern Ireland.

Launching their report on Tuesday, the academics from Ulster University, Newcastle University, Queen's University Belfast and Stranmillis University College said the cuts will disproportionately impact the most educationally disadvantaged children and young people.

The report suggests that the situation for children with special educational needs (SEN) is particularly severe.

The authors call for for the budget to be withdrawn and policy decisions on funding to be made solely by ministers.

The Education Authority is facing a funding gap of £200 million in the budget set by NI Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris in the absence of a Stormont executive.

The Assembly and Executive have not been functional for more than a year due to the DUP's ongoing protest against post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Read more: 

Education cuts in Northern Ireland will have 'catastrophic consequences', report suggests

Shortfall of special school places for children in NI

Koulla Yiasouma: Progress on SEN reform 'painfully slow and at risk'

The new report argues that cuts to education are being made with minimal input from the UK government and little say from Northern Ireland's own elected representatives, undermining the principle of political accountability and public sector equality duties, with the authors making the case for immediately ending the reliance on civil servants to make policy decisions.

It also criticises the removal of, or deep cuts to, schemes such as those to alleviate holiday hunger, period poverty and digital inequalities, as well as to initiatives to support children’s mental wellbeing and reduce the pandemic learning gap.

SDLP education spokesperson Daniel McCrossan said the warning from the experts "should be heeded" adding that he "backed their call for the cuts to be urgently reversed".

“The findings of this report are no surprise, but I welcome this work by academics at a number of universities to spell out the devastating impact these cuts will have on our children and young people, particularly those who are already vulnerable and having their opportunities limited," he said.

SDLP education spokesperson Daniel McCrossan
SDLP education spokesperson Daniel McCrossan SDLP education spokesperson Daniel McCrossan

“No amount of budgetary pressures can justify taking holiday hunger payments away from families who are struggling, counselling from children who need support with their mental health or failing to provide the right environment for children with special educational needs.

"It’s absolutely disgraceful that it’s children who already face the biggest challenges in their young lives who are bearing the brunt of these cuts."

He also urged "the DUP and others to read this report, look at the impact these cuts will have and get back to work so that we can protect our children and young people".

Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan also said that a "lack of an Executive and an onslaught of education cuts means that thousands of families will go without vital holiday hunger payments this summer".

“These payments are a lifeline for families that depend on free school meals and help ensure that children get a hot meal during the school holidays," he said.

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

“Many families are already struggling with increasing mortgage costs, increasing food costs and rising utility bills, so stripping this payment away will only add to the hardship they are facing. 

“The DUP’s continued blockade of the Executive is heartless and irresponsible.

“We need an Executive formed now and parties working together around the table to tackle holiday hunger, to support families and legislate to end the constant cliff-edge over these payments.”