Schools ‘on cusp of crisis’

Dolores Kelly.
Dolores Kelly.

Education Minister John O’Dowd’s failure to take action to address spiralling financial pressures on education budgets has left many schools on the cusp of crisis according to SDLP Education Spokesperson Dolores Kelly.

Despite the Minister’s claim of a 0.8% reduction to the aggregated schools budget, Mrs Kelly raised the issue of an 8% real terms cut in school budgets over a month ago. The Department of Education has, so far, refused to act.

Mrs Kelly said “The announcement from principals, school governors and finance managers reveals the scale of the funding crisis that has been barrelling down the line for months with no intervention from the Department of Education. It’s right that school leaders have taken a stand against the onslaught of austerity that they have been strong-armed into.

“I raised this issue with the Education Minister over a month ago. His spin simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The Department continues to claim the aggregated schools budget has been cut by 0.8%. But the problem is ten times worse than that. Incredibly, the Minister refused on several occasions to acknowledge the crippling effect that passing on additional staff costs will have to bottom lines. It amounts to an 8% real terms cut to budgets that are already at breaking point.

“The ‘Fresh Start’ agreement managed to find £700m to slash civil servant jobs. Now that the Head of the Civil Servant has lifted the bar on recruitment, surely an indication that no further voluntary redundancies are likely to take place, some of the £300m or so which is estimated to be left in that fund should be used to ensure schools don’t have to fund the Department’s central liabilities.”