The Integrated Education Fund (IEF) welcomes the publication yesterday (22 July 2019) of the report from the NI Affairs Committee’s (NIAC’s) inquiry into education funding in Northern Ireland. The IEF’s written contribution to the inquiry included a call for a reform of the structure of the NI education system to rationalise provision and enable better use of resources. We also called for community participation in decisions on education planning and delivery.
The Fund is, therefore, particularly pleased by the Committee’s comment:
We saw there is a clear need to reduce duplication across the education sector and for consolidation of the school estate. Witnesses were clear that alongside the immediate funding pressures on education, the complicated structure of education in Northern Ireland meant that money was not being spent in the most efficient way.
And the Committee acknowledges the input from the IEF:
Although the majority of evidence we received suggested that there is not enough money in the system, many contributions acknowledged that the structure of the education system contributes significantly to the strain on education, and some stakeholders told us that if the system was organised differently it ought to be possible to properly resource education at current funding levels. [The Integrated Education Fund] made a similar case in its written evidence, noting that measured on a per pupil basis, funding in Northern Ireland is high by both UK and OECD standards. They wrote that: ‘Throwing more money at the financial problems facing our schools would only serve to temporarily mask and perpetuate the structural inefficiencies underlying these problems.’
The NIAC report goes on to say:
Witnesses were clear that alongside the immediate funding pressures on education, the complicated structure of education in Northern Ireland meant that money was not being spent in the most efficient way. Achieving change will be challenging, and it is important that the wishes of communities and the demand that exists for different types of education in Northern Ireland are understood. We therefore propose that part of the public sector transformation fund included in the 2019–20 draft Northern Ireland Budget be used to run community consultations so that these important conversations can take place.
The IEF has worked with a team of researchers from the Ulster University in devising and testing a model for community consultation, running a series of pilot “Community Conversations”. You can read about the projects carried out in Glenarm and Carnlough here, and in South Belfast here. The researchers also developed a Community Conversation toolkit which is available for download here.
The NIAC report can be accessed here.
Further information is available on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee website here.
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