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Education cuts threaten the education of pupils throughout Mid-Ulster.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

A FRESH round of cuts to Primary School budgets will have an immediate detrimental impact on the education of local pupils, a Dungannon principal has warned.

Across Mid-Ulster there are roughly 11,879 Primary 1 pupils starting school in Mid-Ulster this month.

With schools now receiving 56 less per pupil than they were last year, a total of 665,224 will be wiped from the budgets of local schools.

Last year, primary and nursery schools were given 2,061.21 per head under the common funding formula. However, this year it has been reduced to 2,004.71.

The cash value of most primary school pupils is multiplied slightly each year, so the actual decrease in real term funding will be larger than 56 per pupil.

The Principal of Dungannon Primary School, David Thompson told the Courier he expects his school will lose around 15,000 from its budget as a result.

"Ultimately, this cut will have an immediate impact on the day-to-day running of the school," he said.

"Our budgets have faced cut after cut and it is now at the stage were it is having an immediate impact on all schools.

"Our teachers are working extremely hard to ensure they continue to provide an outstanding education to their pupils. They are bringing in their own resources at their own expense and that should not be happening.

"No teacher should have to subsidise the resources that should be provided by the Department.

"Teachers remain professional in their approach and continue to provide outstanding provisions in school but there will come a point when we cannot continue to function as we do.

"This is extremely challenging as the Education Training Inspectorate will still expect to see improvement after improvement regardless of these cuts." His comments were echoed by Ulster Unionist MLA and former teacher, Rosemary Barton.

Once again it is children who are hit the hardest by the chaos in Northern Ireland's finances," she said.

This will have an immediate impact on the quality of education which our young people will receive over the next school year, as well as also having a major impact on many staff who now face a worrying period of uncertainty.

Between health cuts and now this cut to frontline school services, it is clear the people being hit hardest by budgetary cuts are the most vulnerable.

This is a direct result of the political stalemate at Stormont.

We are half way through the financial year and there is still no overall Northern Ireland budget in place causing piecemeal short-term budgetary decisions being take simply to balance the books.

Mr Thompson also called on politicians to return to Stormont and attempt to solve these real problems as a matter of urgency.

"Across this country we have had our education and health budget slashed and we need to assess our priorities, especially during these times of austerity," he said.

The Department of Education claims that increasing pupil numbers are partly responsible for the cut in funding.

"The main drivers leading to the reduced Age-Weighted Pupil Unit (AWPU) year-on-year are changes in demographics and less money being available for allocation to schools," said a spokesperson.

"It was made clear in a letter the Department of Education sent to schools on 15th March that their allocations were based on last year's opening position adjusted only for demographics i.e. excluding additional allocations made during the year.

"By implication, depending on the demographics, some schools will therefore have received lower allocations than they received in 2016-17.

"Following the Secretary of State's written statement in July 2017 on indicative budgets for Northern Ireland Departments, the Department of Education finalised its decisions on the services it would fund during 2016/17. This required some difficult decisions to be taken if the Department was to remain within its indicative budget whilst minimising the impact on core school, early years and youth frontline services."

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