Ulster Unionist Councillor Glenn Barr has hit out at the Education Minister, John O’Dowd, following proposals to change how school budgets are calculated.
The Department of Education say they are making the changes in an attempt to tackle deprivation by targeting funds at those most in need.
This has been disputed by Councillor Barr, who said, “The vast majority would see their budgets cut dramatically, in many cases losing between £5,000-£10,000. Some schools are losing even more.
“Why should 80% of schools have to literally pay the price for something which the Department should have already been tackling long before now.
“My party fully recognises that unless we invest in our young people at the early stages then we are ultimately letting them down at one of the most important stages in their life. Early investment is even more important for children identified as being in social need. The problem with these latest proposals is that the Education Minister intends to fix one problem by creating a much bigger one.
“The changes John O’Dowd is trying to make to the Common Funding Scheme would see money being taken off four out every five schools. That is despite many of these being small, often rural and predominately controlled primary schools which are already working within constrained financial circumstances.”
How can we expect these schools to absorb significant cuts to their annual budgets each and every year from now on? It’s totally unrealistic. If these proposals are allowed to go ahead from next year onwards we will inevitably see staff being laid off and an overall reduction in opportunities available for our young people.”
Councillor Barr concluded by asking all schools, parents and members of the public to engage in the current consultation process;
“These changes are only proposals at this stage and we have an opportunity to lodge our opposition to them right up until the 18th October. The Department of Education must be sent a loud and clear message that whilst targeting social need must be a priority, there shouldn’t be indiscriminate cuts to all other schools to pay for it.”