CUTS to the education budget will have “severe consequences”, a local school principal has said.
It comes just days after education minister John O’Dowd revealed the cuts to his budget will mean teachers and other staff losing their jobs.
Principals have been told their financial allocation will be reduced by 5% this year, around 2% more than expected.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said schools were facing a “financial Armageddon”, warning that 4,000 jobs could be lost next year.
Anne Doran, principal of St Teresa’s Primary School, described the situation as “dire”.
“This will have severe consequences on teaching and ancillary staff,” she said.
“At the end of the day, it is children who will suffer because of this.
“However, our teachers will do their very best to make sure every child gets what they need.”
Mrs Doran continued: “There will certainly be a reduction in classroom assistants, who provide vital support to all schools.
“We will see larger class numbers, putting strain on teachers’ well-being as a result of increased pressure and stress.”
She added: “We appreciate that the money isn’t there. However, if we are looking long-term we need to educate our young people, and providing a solid foundation at primary level upon which to build in the future is vitally important.”
Trevor Robinson, principal at Lurgan College, said the budget constraints will “impose real difficulty on all schools”.
“It is a bit early to say what the exact result will be,” said Mr Robinson.
“We have to take time to look at the impact and we will make decisions after that.
“It’s clear from the Minister’s statement that he can see wholesale redundancies taking place.
“We have to couple these cuts with the fact that utility bills have increased by 39%.
“I would be very surprised if any school was able to live within their budget next year.”
Mr Robinson also pointed out that the cuts will impact schools’ ability to deliver the Department of Education’s Entitlement Framework.
Mr O’Dowd said it was an “unsavoury but necessary decision”.
“The harsh reality of the cuts imposed on this administration by the British government is that we are going to face job losses among our teaching staff, among our school staff, going into the future,” he said.
“The scale of the savings required in education has been clear since the Budget 2011-15 process concluded in March this year.”
Gerry Murphy, northern secretary of the teachers’ union INTO, said: “We now urge the minister to reflect on the seriousness of the planned budget cuts outlined by his officials and begin to engage constructively with INTO and other stake holders to find a different way to overcome the financial challenges we undoubtedly face.
“INTO is prepared to act responsibly and engage in meaningful negotiations to this end.”