NIAC Research

The education budget in NI:  what they said


Gavin Boyd, CEO Education Authority told the NI Affairs Committee in February 2018:
“The situation in education is really quite stark. In real terms, the education budget in Northern Ireland is about 10% less than it was in 2010-11. That is about a £200 million reduction in the cash value of the budget. We quite simply have come to the situation that we don’t have enough resource to run the system as it is currently structured. It is a very heavily engineered system. We are not saying that we don’t have enough money to education 340,000 children. What we are saying very clearly is that we don’t have enough money to educate 340,000 children the way that we currently do.

Our plea at the minute is not for more money, although the Department of Education’s projection for the incoming financial year is that there will be a shortfall in the education budget of the order of £134 million. Our plea is not that we simply get more money. Our plea is that we enter into a significant transformation of the education sector so that it is better able to meet the needs of our young people as they face the challenges of the future.” 

Read the Oral evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee here.


NICCY Koulla Yiasouma, launching her report “The State of Children’s Rights” in June 2018, called for:
“…an urgent debate and consultation on how we fund education in Northern Ireland, and whether resources can be identified, streamlining the education system and reducing duplication, to ensure that all children have access to an effective education regardless of their circumstances.”

Read The State of Children’s Rights here.


Mr. Kieran Donnelly, the Comptroller and Auditor General “NIAO report on the sustainability of schools 2015”:
“We acknowledge that delivering sustainable schools is difficult due to the following factors:

…education is delivered by a number of sectors: controlled; Catholic maintained; voluntary grammar; Irish-medium and integrated.

….The Education Authority and the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools have statutory responsibility for planning education provision. However, education in Northern Ireland is delivered by five main sectors, all of which have different management, funding and ownership arrangements. This can present difficulties for area-based planning.”

Read the NIAO report on the sustainability of schools 2015 here.


From the Oxford Economics Scoping Paper 2010
“…clearly,  funding an education system in which there is excess capacity, and small average school sizes, is not the optimal use of the scarce Executive block grant, especially when the education sector itself has large capital investment needs. The smaller average size of schools in NI means that unit costs of education delivery are higher and schools are less able to take advantage of economies of scale. In addition the older parts of the school estate are known to have much higher maintenance costs than more recently built and modern parts of the school estate. Of course as the Sustainable Schools Criteria demonstrate, provision is not all about financial efficiency. However, at the same time, in a more austere fiscal environment there needs to be a mature debate and trade-off between issues of accessibility and local community impacts on the one hand, and affordability on the other, especially given the backlog of capital and maintenance pressures facing the education sector.”

Read the Oxford Economics Scoping Paper here.


Deloitte Cost of Division report, 2007
“… consolidation within the schools estate could result in savings. If these were of the order of one to five per cent, savings would be between £15.9 million and £79.6 million (per annum)”.

[the divide has] “led to the development of a multi-sector school system that essentially involves providing a choice of schools on a denominational basis. This necessarily makes matching supply and demand more difficult compared, with, for example, a spatially organised school system where all pupils in a certain locality attend the same primary or secondary school. The situation is compounded by academic selection and the existence of single sex schools which further expand the diversity of school types; and by NI’s relatively rural population distribution which is linked to the provision of a large number of small schools. The careful and coherent strategic planning approach that would be required to minimise surplus places across a multi-sector system like this has not existed.” 

Read the Deloitte Cost of Division report here.


IN 2006, the Independent Strategic Review of Education “Schools for the Future: Funding, Strategy, Sharing” (“The Bain Review”) stated:

“In the course of consultation, it became evident to the Review that Northern Ireland’s educational structure – based almost entirely on institutional independence, and its preservation, within a competitive system – is also at a significant cost to some children’s and young people’s experiences and opportunities; it is at a cost too, in certain contexts, to the well-being, effectiveness, all-round development and experience of teachers and principals; and last of all, it is at a cost to the efficient use of the schools’ estate in terms of duplication and overlaps, empty places and inadequate accommodation. It follows, therefore, that it is a cost to the economic well-being, and the integration and health of our society more generally.”

 “The schools’ estate needs to consist of fewer and larger schools, all of them educationally sustainable and all of them maximising the potential of their resources.”

Read the Bain Review here.