Ulster Unionist Education Spokesperson, Rosemary Barton MLA, has warned that more and more schools are reporting deficit positions, yet no action at all is being taken at a strategic level to resolve the deepening funding crisis.
Rosemary Barton, a former teacher of over 30 years, said:
“Every year from 2010/11 schools have been finding it increasingly difficult to balance the budget. In fact, in cash terms, the level of funding schools are receiving now has remained flat since then, despite rapidly growing pupil numbers, rising costs and £60m year-on-year pay pressures.
“The main impact of this is that the number of schools unable to operate within their annual budget, and moving into deficit position, is likely to be at an all-time high. It is my understanding that last year alone an additional 22 primary schools across Northern Ireland moved into a deficit position.
“The current situation is wholly untenable and I have come to the worrying conclusion that almost all savings that can be made by schools, have been made. If schools are forced to go any further then I fear the quality of education being delivered to our young people will quickly begin to deteriorate.
“Already an unacceptable number of teachers are working with class sizes that are too large, in buildings which are no longer fit for purpose and under the threat of further budget cutbacks.
“Yet the problems are nothing new – they have been long known and long discussed – what I find unacceptable is that nothing at all is being done to resolve them.
“Whilst the stalemate at Stormont is undoubtedly making the current problem worse, even if there was a fully functioning Executive unless difficult decisions were made on the future structure of our education system I suspect schools would still be in a difficult funding position.
“Instead of piecemeal changes, such as many of the proposals within the current area planning process, it’s obvious that if we are to deliver the best education possible, more radical and transformative change is needed.
“A single state education system, where children of all faiths and none are educated together, would not only fulfill the long-held vision of the first and last Ulster Unionist Education Ministers, but it would also deliver huge annual financial savings allowing resources to be directed to frontline schools.
“I would urge all Parties to recognise the severity of the current situation and set their bickering aside so that we can actually do something to pave the way for a new, sustainable and properly funded education system.”
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