Time to value education

The body representing nearly half of all Northern Ireland’s schools has today, Thursday, 21 December 2017, raised its concerns over proposals for education contained in the Department of Finance Briefing on Northern Ireland budgetary outlook 2018-20.

Having now had the opportunity to look at the proposals in more detail, Barry Mulholland, Chief Executive of the Controlled Schools’ Support Council (CSSC) said,

We have listened to controlled school leaders in all types of schools and it is fair to say many of them have profound concerns about the serious financial challenges they are facing.

Whilst it is widely recognised that a significant transformation programme is needed for public services such as education, the reality is that the legislative requirements and existing service delivery structures continue; in this environment sufficient funds are required to support schools, teaching and learning.

Controlled schools are already working in difficult financial circumstances to provide the essential curriculum to enable over 140,600 children and young people to meet their potential.

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.  

CSSC welcomes that education and health services continue to be prioritised.

Recent budget outcomes have undoubtedly impacted on core day to day teaching and learning.  Controlled schools report having to make efficiencies in terms of staff which is leading to an increase in class sizes and reductions in curriculum offer.  Further to this many schools are having to cut back on books, language and music classes, counselling services and IT equipment. Schools are becoming increasingly more reliant on parents and families making greater financial contributions.  This is not sustainable in the long term.

 Home to school transport is being seen as a potential savings area and yes, while either reducing the number of pupils eligible for free transport and/or forcing payment for some or all of the journey may reduce the transport bill, this could present some unforeseen consequences to the system. 

It is not clear how school transport charges can be introduced at this time, given that the requirement to provide free home to school transport is set out in legislation.

CSSC is willing to discuss these issues, and more in great depth, and would urge educational leaders to sit down and work together, participating in professional conversations to find a sustainable way forward.

Published 21 December 2017