Ireland’s largest teachers’ union has condemned today’s announcement on budget cuts in schools across Northern Ireland and is calling for those decision makers to halt the cuts as a matter of urgency.
Gerry Murphy, Northern Secretary of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), said news of further cuts to school budgets will mean children will be denied access to services, class sizes will increase and special needs provision will shrink.
News broke today (Thursday) that money for schools, for each pupil, will be reduced by £56 and by a minimum of £25 per pupil in post primary schools.
Mr Murphy said the cuts is yet another insult to the very people trying to deliver the best possible education for children right across Northern Ireland.
He said: “This is such a bleak start for principals, teachers, parents and pupils who are preparing for the academic year ahead.
“Hard pressed school principals have been seeking clarification of the financial situation pertaining to their schools from the Department of Education from the beginning of the year.
“The drip feeding of budgetary cuts, and rumours of cuts emanating from the Department, has further fuelled levels of frustration and uncertainty across the education sector as principals attempt to plan for the education of the children and young people in their care.”
Mr Murphy said in some cases the Department of Education and the Employing Authorities have yet to fully inform all schools as to their financial situation.
He added: “It beggars belief that the Department and the Employing Authorities have yet to fully inform schools as to the actual financial situation they are in.
“This is confirmation of the very thing INTO has been highlighting for the past number of years. The Department, and the over wrought educational bureaucracy that surrounds it, have lost sight of their core purpose. That core purpose is to facilitate the education of our children and young people – not to prioritise the financial consideration of a lame duck Conservative Government in London.”
Mr Murphy said INTO is calling on the unelected and unaccountable Departmental officials, and their collaborators in the Employing Authorities, to halt these cuts.
He said: “These cuts need to be stopped now. We are urging the Department and the Employing Authorities to join us, and the wider trade union movement, in demanding increased investment in education. This latest round of cuts comes on the back of cuts totalling nine per cent of the overall education budget since 2009/10. As principals have been pointing out for some time they cannot any longer be called upon to make this broken system work.
School principals and volunteer governors are increasingly being forced to make decisions that are negatively impacting on the life chances of the young people in their care, decisions foisted upon them by the Department and the bureaucracy.
“This is not what these school leaders signed up for. Denying children access to services, increasing class sizes and a shrinking special needs provision are already resulting from the cuts and these will be further exacerbated as this school year unfolds.”
Mr Murphy reiterated that INTO will continue to not only oppose these cuts directly but the union will continue to support members in their action against them.
He said: “The Department has effectively sub contracted its dirty work to INTO members adding to their already intolerable burden. It’s time the Department caught itself on. School budgets need to fit the school and not the other way about.”