A £7m cut in school budgets could be reviewed by a minister – if there was one, the Department of Education has said.
The cut, reported by the BBC, equates to £54 per child in every primary school across Northern Ireland. In secondary schools it is £15 per pupil.
Civil servants are having to consider the possibility of a reduced budget in the 2017/18 financial year because of the collapsed Stormont institutions. The Department of Education said there had also been an increase of 3,000 children in primary schools which adversely affected the funding per head ratio.
However, it did say that any decision could be reviewed by an Executive minister – if there was one.
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Commissioner for Children and Young People Koulla Yiasouma said cuts to education would be felt hardest by children.
“Schools are already struggling to provide the high quality education to which children have a right,” she said.
“I recognise that budget cuts are increasingly challenging for all government departments as they have been for a number of years. I will be continuing to challenge the Department of Education on the processes it has and should use to assess the impact of these decisions on children.”
Unions also hit out saying the cuts would increase classroom sizes, reduce staff numbers and lead to increased stress levels for teachers.
Gerry Murphy, of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, described the cuts as an “insult” to teachers.
He added: “It beggars belief that the department and the employing authorities have yet to fully inform schools as to the actual financial situation they are in.
Justin McCamphill, NASUWT national official for Northern Ireland, added: “Cut after cut is being applied to education in Northern Ireland. The NASUWT is resolved firmly to fight these cuts through our current industrial action. It is about time politicians addressed the issues affecting education as a priority.”
Avril Hall Callaghan, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union said the education system in Northern Ireland was no longer sustainable.
“Without a resolution to the current situation and the impasse at Stormont, we are facing uncharted waters and it’s difficult to see how we could ever come back from such swingeing cuts. Something has to give and it will be our children’s right to their education,” she said.
“Politicking will be cold comfort to a student who misses out on their dream college course because the resources were simply not there to deliver the subjects they needed.”
Because of the continuing political stalemate at Stormont, senior civil servants are having to plan the coming financial year with a reduced budget. While they are having to plan ahead for reduced budgets, any new Executive ministers could review and indeed change decisions.
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Sinn Fein have blamed “Tory austerity”.
Education spokeswoman Karen Mullan MLA said it was wrong to target children in this manner.
The Department for Education was asked what other cuts are being implemented.
“While schools’ core funding, youth services and Sure Start have been protected as far as possible, it has not been possible to protect all the funding streams which are allocated to schools,” said a spokeswoman.
“This has mainly affected the Extended Schools and Entitlement Framework budgets and the Sports Initiative grant funding. Individual schools have been advised accordingly.
“All decisions taken to date at an official level will obviously be subject to the views of an incoming administration.”