DC&SDC backs principals on school budget cut stance

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Derry City & Strabane District Council has backed a motion supporting the decision of local principals to write to parents informing them of the damaging impact of swingeing cuts to education funding.

SDLP Councillor Shauna Cusack proposed the motion observing how schools were “facing unprecedented financial pressures following real reductions in core funding for education, to the sum of £70 per pupil over the last number of years”.

Colr. Cusack moved that DC&SDC write to the Department of Education and the political parties outlining their concerns, and urging the party leaderships to re-establish the Executive.

The motion ultimately passed with the support of the SDLP, Sinn Féin, the DUP and the UUP but not before Sinn Féin Colr. Sandra Duffy moved an amendment asserting that cuts were “as a result of the British Government reducing the Executive revenue budget”. This was rejected with DUP Alderman Hilary McClintock characterising it as a “blatant attempt to put the blame on the British Government”.

Independent councillors, Gary Donnelly, Paul Gallagher and Warren Robinson, abstained from the vote with Colr. Gallagher alleging that previous petitions from DC&SDC to the department had been met with “waffle”.

Colr. Cusack, speaking to her motion, said: “I don’t have to relist the serious impact they are having on all our schools, this has been broadly outlined by our professional educators, but suffice to say that redundancies, increased workload, reduced resources and additional support to students are just some casualties of this crisis.”

She said it was imperative power-sharing was restored so that the local political parties could take responsibiliy for education.

She said: “I would ask that the two main parties have a serious look at their priorities, have a look at the devastation around us resulting from no leadership or accountability.”

Commenting after the motion was passed, Sinn Féin Colr. Patricia Logue said: “The austerity agenda pursued by the Tory Government and their bedfellows in the DUP is at odds with the properly resourced education system parents rightly demand for their children. The restoration of the Assembly and Executive will not of themselves address the funding issues facing education. That can and will only be done when the British government abandons its austerity agenda and restores the Block Grant to the levels that address the needs of the people of the North.”