“Difficult decisions will need to be taken”

Children at desks in school
Children at desks in school

The Department of Education has said that ‘difficult decisions will need to be taken’ by schools to stay within budget.

The department has responded to stark warnings by Derry principals about the dire financial situation faced by schools in the city.

Around 30 local principals warned parents in a letter last week that funding has been reduced by £70 per child and the inevitable consequences include increased class sizes, reductions in teaching and support staff and charging for before and after-school provision.

The letter appealed to politicians to ‘put whatever difficulties they currently have aside and get the Executive up and running again to deal with the current crisis in Education.’

In response, a spokesperson for the Department said: “While the Department has been able to maintain the total schools’ budget in cash terms, it has not been possible to fund the additional pressures facing schools in 2018-19.

“Firm financial management and budgetary discretion will need to be applied by schools and difficult decisions will need to be taken to live within budget.

“It is recognised that in the longer term the education sector requires significant and radical transformation if it is to be put on a sustainable financial footing. All departments must live within their final budget allocation in any year.”

The spokesperson added that it was ‘important to recognise our highly motivated and capable teaching profession and committed school leaders’.

The Department said that in the past five years the proportion of school leavers achieving at least 5 GCSEs A*-C or equivalent has risen by almost 8 percentage points (69.6 % in 2017 up from 62% in 2012).

“Results of international surveys also show that our primary school pupils are performing significantly above the international average in both literacy and numeracy,” the spokesperson concluded.