Caution over schools cash

Joseph Johnston, principal of Lurgan Junior High School. INLM4711-134gc
Joseph Johnston, principal of Lurgan Junior High School. INLM4711-134gc

THE announcement that extra cash will be made available for schools’ budgets has been cautiously welcomed by local principals.

Last year, schools were told that they will face an overall budget cut of 5% across the board, which one principal said would have “severe consequences”.

Trevor Robinson.

Trevor Robinson.

It was announced last week that an extra £120 million will be made available over the next three years for the education budget, calming some fears.

The anouncement was welcomed by education minister John O’Dowd, who described it as “very welcome”.

However, schools will still face an average budget cut of around 1.5% and prospects remain bleak.

Trevor Robinson, principal at Lurgan College, said the availability of extra cash was “welcome news”.

“A 1.5% cut is certainly an improvement on a 5%,” he said.

“This will mean we will be able to do what we are trying to do.

“It’s certainly not going to eradicate our problems over night, but it will alleviate them.

“This is welcome news, and it will help us provide a high-quality service to young people in the future.”

Joseph Johnston, principal of Lurgan Junior High School, said: “This is a substantial amount of money for us, and if it comes through things might not look as bad as they were.

“When the 5% cut was announced last year, we all knew there were going to be redundancies.

“This extra money obviously makes things a bit easier.”

However, one local principal was not as optimistic.

He said: “In regard to the impact it these cuts will have; well, we will just have to wait and see.

“Things are tight, and they are only going to get tighter.

“Schools are under pressure at the minute, and this will continue in the coming years.”

John O’Dowd said: “Since my appointment as Education Minister I have consistently highlighted the fact that that the education budget faces unprecedented financial challenges over the next three years.

“I said that I would argue the case with Executive colleagues for further investment to help alleviate pressures on school budgets.

“I am extremely pleased, therefore, that my arguments have been listened to and welcome the additional allocations over the next three years.

“This will be welcome news for schools, however it is important to stress that these additional funds have not completely eradicated the pressures bearing down on them.”