Draconian cuts to education

Antrim County Hall. BT49-006JM.
Antrim County Hall. BT49-006JM.

The draft budget for 2015-16 put before the North Eastern Education and Library Board will require ‘potentially draconian’ cuts to services, according to the organisation.

NEELB Board Members who were considering their response to the consultation on the finncial paper for the Department of Education were told that school budgets would be reduced significantly (on average by 7%) and the direct impact of this will be the loss of teaching and non-teaching staff within schools.

A statement issued by the Board also predicted that class sizes would increase and many schools may not have the infrastructure to manage the consequential impact of changes on this scale. School Governors would face difficult decisions in considering what facilities and services the school may no longer be able to offer and also what teachers and support staff may lose their jobs.

The provision available to support children with particular and special learning needs would be subjected to further pressure in a system that has an increasing number of children who require much needed additional learning support.

Budgetary cuts would also have serious implications for the maintenance of the school estate and a lowering of nutritional standards in our schools.

The statement predicted that if the budgetary cuts were to be effected then the impact upon the education system would be unprecedented and invariably the gap between Northern Ireland’s socially disadvantaged children and their more well-off counterparts would widen.

“The Board urges Boards of Governors, Principals, parents and community representatives to oppose these draconian measures,” the statement continues.

In noting that the consultation deadline is 29 December 2014 members expressed concerns about the timescale, particularly at this time of year, enabling people in schools and the wider public to respond.

A spokesman for the Board commented: “Never in the lifetime of this Board have we seen such dramatic reductions in the budget proposed that very directly affect the educational development of children and young people. These proposed budget reductions must be opposed and everyone should be encouraged and enabled to respond to the consultation. We will do everything in our power to support the Minister in making the case for Education when the budgets are presented to the Assembly for adoption. he future is our young people.”

The NEELB will be responding to the Minister within the consultation deadline and will be asking for the deadline to be extended to facilitate a meaningful consultation process.

“We will be writing to the MLAs within the area seeking their support to oppose these potential cuts that will detrimentally affect the young people and their families that we serve. We encourage everyone with an interest in education to take some time to respond to this consultation to demonstrate your views very strongly to the political leadership within Northern Ireland.”