Local princpals air school budget concerns at meeting with education official

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Local princpals air school budget concerns at meeting with education official thumbnail

A GROUP of local principals have met with a senior education official to highlight the ongoing strain on school budgets.
The meeting with Derek Baker, permanent secretary of the Department of Education, was facilitated by West Tyrone MLA., Daniel McCrossan, in his Strabane office.
It was attended by a delegation of eight principals and vice-principals representing a number of primary and post-primary schools across the Strabane and district area as well as former principal of Strabane Controlled Primary School, David Canning.
During the meeting, they raised their collective concerns over the outcome of ongoing cuts including increased class sizes, a reduction in staffing, increased demands on staff, charging for extra-curricular activities and essential maintenance works not being carried out, among others.
The meeting also comes weeks after school heads across the Derry City and Strabane District Council jointly issued a letter warning of the 'unprecedented' financial pressures facing the education sector and the consequent effect on their children's schooling.
Principals representing cash-strapped schools within the Catholic Maintained, Controlled, Integrated and Irish Medium sectors, had united and sent letters to parents and guardians warning of a funding 'crisis' in education.
Signed 'Derry and Strabane principals' the missive detailed how over the past four years, the amount of funding schools receive has been reduced by 70 per child and called for an immediate rethink of budgets stressing that the quality of education is suffering.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr McCrossan said that unless urgent and effective action is taken, the futures of schools, teachers, and children hang in the balance. He added that it was important that the voices of local principals was heard.
"This time last year we revealed a 100 million black hole in the education budget. That hole is now only partially plugged with cuts to schools budgets across the North becoming a mainstay.
"This cannot continue and schools and their principals can no longer be expected to balance their books and provide the same service. Schools are getting less money per child, special needs provision is not delivering and extra-curricular activities have halted.
"Education here is broken, it is at a cliff-edge and about to plunge into the unknown," he said.
The Strabane politician said the principals present at the meeting brought an "impassioned" message to Mr Baker.
He continued: "There was a clear consensus that the show can no longer go on, especially with a politics vacuum in having no functioning Assembly.
"There needs to be a root-and-branch reform of how education is delivered in the North. Those discussions need to start happening now."
He further revealed that in view of the ongoing political deadlock at Stormont, he has written to the Secretary of State (SoS), Karen Bradley, to "urge intervention for immediate reconvening of talks here to tackle this problem and many more head on."
"Education is the only thing that promotes social mobility, offers a better life and a better future for our children. Under current provisions, that will not be sustainable for long," he added.


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