Education funding system in critical need of reform – Rosemary Barton

Following the revelation that the Education Authority contemplated cutting measures essential for the safety of school children, such as the removal of all lollipop men and women, Ulster Unionist Education Spokesperson Rosemary Barton MLA has warned that the local education system is in an untenable funding situation.

Rosemary Barton, a teacher of over 30 years, said:

“It is ridiculous that the Education Authority even for one moment thought that removing staff which help keep children safe crossing busy roads was a viable option. Of course it wasn’t and so it is paramount that the EA continue put the safety of our young people ahead of piecemeal budget cuts.

Education funding system in critical need of reform – Rosemary Barton“The fact that it was even considered shows the scale of the crisis in local education funding. In cash terms the level of funding schools are receiving now is still similar to 2010/11, despite rapidly growing pupil numbers and £60m year-on-year pay pressures.

“It’s now evident that the size of the local education budget is simply no longer adequate to deliver a quality education system. The initial hype surrounding this year’s Tory/DUP budget for Northern Ireland quickly subdued as people saw past the spin and realised that it was actually £5m smaller than the amount of money that was available the year before.

“In terms of front-line spending by schools the mantra of doing more with less has been pushed to its absolute limit as all reasonable cost reducing measures have been exhausted.

“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 with materials that are in desperate need of being updated.

“Yet I note other areas of expenditure by the Education Authority and Department, such as the cost of administration, appear to have been left off the list of potential cost-saving measures.

“It’s about time the EA and Department of Education seriously considered what their primary objective is – ensuring our children receive the best quality education or propping up the ever growing number of backroom bodies that are merely sustaining the sectoral divisions within the local school system.

“It is more important than ever to get Stormont back up and running and make local Ministers accountable for decisions on education and a whole host of issues.”