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Principals demand that Education Funding Inquiry will lead to greater direct investment in schools.

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NAHT have welcomed the launch of an inquiry in to education funding in Northern Ireland  by the NI Affairs Committee. Paul Whiteman, NAHT General Secretary said, this is a significant moment, school leaders can no longer protect children from the failure of the centre of government to provide adequate funding. 

Commenting on the announcement NAHT(NI) Director Helena Macormac stated:

In the absence of a NI government, this inquiry is vital. NAHT (NI) has been at the forefront of the campaign to ensure that our schools are properly funded. We  have been pressurising the government for independent scrutiny of education funding and we welcome that these demands have been recognised at the parliamentary level.

We will be submitting evidence to the inquiry to highlight that the current funding received by the Department of Education is insufficient to meet the needs of children and young people. In our events across the nation, parents, governors and school leaders have joined forces to highlight the impact of these devastating cuts. [1] Our school budgets have continued to shrink yet the school population is currently at its highest level since 1999. [2] 

Furthermore, the way education funding is currently deployed is inefficient. In contrast to the rest of the UK where 2-10% is retained at centre,  schools in Northern Ireland only receive a maximum of 59% of the overall education budget directly.  Spending on pre-school, primary and secondary education per pupil is 46% higher in Scotland, 18% higher in England and 31% higher in Wales. [3] Our politicians must acknowledge that children and young people in Northern Ireland are not worth less.

In addition the current education system is failing to meet the needs of many of our most vulnerable pupils, the NI Audit Office has highlighted “neither the Department nor the EA can currently demonstrate value for money in terms of economy, efficiency or effectiveness in the provision of support to children with SEN in mainstream schools”. [4]  

This situation is unacceptable.  This inquiry must lead to lasting reform that will guarantee proper front line investment in education for the benefit of all children and young people. Schools are vital for a peaceful and prosperous future for Northern Ireland and therefore the views of schools must be central to this inquiry. 

About the inquiry:

The inquiry follows the passage of the Government’s Northern Ireland Budget Act, which set out funding for NI departments, including education, up until 31 March 2019. The inquiry will examine whether the levels of funding allocated to education in the Northern Ireland Budget are sufficient to meet the challenges facing the sector, and what the spending priorities should be for the monies allocated to the NI Department of Education. Formal evidence sessions are expected to take place when Parliament returns in the Autumn. 

The extended closing date for written submissions: 5pm Friday 14 September 2018

[1] Since 2010-11, the overall education budget has declined by £200m,Comptroller and Auditor General to the NI Assembly  “Education Authority Annual Report and Accounts 2016-17” available at https://www.niauditoffice.gov.uk/publications/education-authority-annual-report-and-accounts-2016-17

[2] There are 173,744 pupils in primary schools (years 1-7), and this has risen by over 2,000 pupils this year to the highest total since 1999/00. Information available at https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/education/DE-enrolment-stats-bulletin-revised-feb-2018.pdf

[3] Northern Ireland Childrens’ Commissioner “The cost of education” (2017) available at http://www.niccy.org/costofeducation

[4] NI Audit Office “Special Educational Needs Report” (June 2017)  available at https://www.niauditoffice.gov.uk/publications/special-educational-needs

 

First published 29 August 2018