Politicians in NI have been responding to the report on education funding from the NI Affairs Committee at Westminster, which was published yesterday (Monday 22 July 2019).
Alliance Party MLA Kellie Armstrong highlighted the need for systemic reform to create a more efficient education system. She is quoted on the party website as saying:
“Today’s announcement from Westminster is nothing new. Alliance has consistently called for a full root and branch reform of the entire education system here. We have been inundated with messages from parents, teachers and principals, all concerned about the growing pressures being put on our children’s education by factors including increasing financial strain on our schools…All Parties have accepted education, in its current format, is not meeting the needs of children. We need short-term measures to ensure schools are safe in parallel with reforms to ensure our education system is structured and resourced to give all our young people the education they deserve.”
Sinn Fein education spokeswoman Karen Mullan MLA issued a statement saying that a reversal of “Tory austerity cuts” is required to restore school budgets to an appropriate level. She said:
“Sustained reductions to school budgets are the direct result of austerity cuts imposed by the Tories with the support of the DUP. This is what needs to change if we are to reverse the impact that these cuts are having on children and schools.
“The restoration of the Assembly and Executive will not of themselves address the funding issues facing education. That can and will only be done when the British government abandons its austerity agenda and restores the Block Grant to the levels that address the needs of the people of the north.
“I and my colleagues will continue to make the case for greater resources for public services and particularly for education.”
Colin McGrath, the SDLP’s spokesman on children and young people, said that pupils are becoming a critical casualty of the failure to restore an inclusive power-sharing government at Stormont. He added:
“I don’t know how many reports or how many letters from principals begging for voluntary donations from parents it will take before the message registers that our schools are in crisis. The failure to get to grips with the very serious challenges in education – teacher pay, additional resources for SEND, tackling underachievement in working class communities – is a dereliction of our responsibility to today’s children.
“Without an Education Minister to provide strategic direction with a well-resourced budget to deal with the challenges we’re facing, there is no respite for the parents, teachers and school leaders who are carrying the can for political failure. It’s unacceptable.”
Ulster Unionist education spokesperson Rosemary Barton MLA said that the UK government must now step in and directly order a review of local school funding arrangements:
“The funding problems in our schools are causing almost insurmountable pressures and this Westminster report is just the latest to state that the current model of education funding is simply no longer fit for purpose. Yet in the absence of a local Minister or functioning Assembly the problem will only continue to get worse and this is something that the NI Affairs Committee have quite rightly recognised.
“Given this assessment however I was surprised that the report stopped short in recommending that in the ongoing absence of the devolved institutions the UK government should intervene to provide clarity to local schools and set a policy direction of spend.
“It is positive however to note that the report has recommended that the Secretary of State should bring forward legislation to further support children with Special Educational Needs and Disability.”
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