Northern Ireland headteachers demand funding overhaul

Written by: Simon Doyle | Published:

​Secondary school heads have urged an overhaul of government in Northern Ireland to end a funding crisis facing schools.

Four principals gave evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee at Westminster on Wednesday (October 31).

The committee is carrying out an inquiry into education funding in Northern Ireland. It follows a report from the North’s auditor general in which he warned that the education system is “coming close to a financial tipping point”.

Between 2012/13 and 2016/17, there has been a 9.3 per cent budget reduction in real-terms. In that time, more schools have found themselves in the red. Since 2012/13, the number in deficit increased from 197 to 315. In that same period, those with a surplus decreased from 856 to 711. Deficits at individual schools were highest in the post-primary sector. Seven were in excess of £1 million at March 31, 2017.

The power-sharing Executive at Stormont collapsed in January 2017 following a breakdown in relations between the DUP and Sinn Fein. Nigel Frith, principal of Drumragh Integrated College in Omagh, Co Tyrone, says he does not want the “old Stormont” back.

“I want a new Stormont with a new will and a new vision to work together in the ways that they didn’t,” he told the committee.

“I didn’t see a power-sharing executive, I saw a power-grabbing executive, and I’m sorry if I have offended anyone listening, but I think that is the reality.

“Now if they can’t agree to power-sharing properly, I would rather that the civil servants at the head of our government departments were given greater powers to make decisions for themselves and I daresay without any political bias.”

Jo McColgan, principal of Ashfield Boys’ High School in east Belfast, said that despite improving results, their financial position has worsened: “We have gone from a £4,000 surplus to a minus £136,000 deficit.”


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