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School leaders to meet with MPs over education funding

Representatives from the Controlled Schools’ Support Council (CSSC) will highlight ongoing concerns over the shortfall in the education budget at a meeting of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on Monday 28 January 2019.

MPs from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, which is holding an inquiry into local education funding, will host a discussion in Holy Cross College in Strabane with school leaders.

Grace Trimble, Principal of Kilkeel Nursery School and CSSC’s nursery sector representative said,

“Nursery education has been universally recognised as providing not only the best start to a child’s education, but also to their preparation for life.  However, nursery Principals and staff face unprecedented challenges, exacerbated by the current financial difficulties, and many are almost at breaking point. 

“I will be asking the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee to consider that with the ever-decreasing budgets, the nursery sector often has only the bare legal minimum of staff to deal with more and more children who have not had their needs identified, and to try to support parents in their role.”

Raymond McFeeters, Principal of Castle Tower School and Ardnashee School and College, and CSSC’s special school representative, outlined one of the key challenges colleagues are facing in the special school sector. 

“I am concerned that special educational needs (SEN) provision and the classroom assistants who provide this support are one potential area that will be cut back on as a result of budget restrictions,” he said.  “This would be particularly damaging for children with special needs and learning difficulties.

“While I fully appreciate that SEN has a relatively large budgetary allocation, special school staff are dealing with the reality of funding decisions that are being made remotely.  Special schools continue to need highly trained staff to deal with the increasing complexity of pupil need.”

Robin McLoughin, Principal of Banbridge Academy and CSSC’s grammar sector representative said he would be raising with MPs that

“There is insufficient funding in the delegated budget to schools to sustain the schools’ estate and the quality of education currently on offer.”

CSSC has previously given evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, taking the opportunity to acknowledge that although budgets are finite, the reality is that many schools are struggling to deliver the essential curriculum to enable over 140,000 pupils in their care to meet their potential.

CSSC believes that education must continue to be valued and given the priority it deserves across all government departments; after all, our schools are educating the next generation.