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Schools’ united front against proposed cuts.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Schools’ united front against proposed cuts. thumbnail Kevin Donaghy, principal of St Ronan’s PS, Newry, is one of the principals who has signed the letter.

THE Principals of a number of primary schools in the area have sent a joint letter to the Department of Education (DoE) protesting against further budget cuts.

St Ronan's Primary School, Newry, St Mary's Primary School, Rathfriland, St Patrick's Primary School, Drumgreenagh, and St Paul's Primary School, Cabra, are four of eight schools who have signed the letter, which has also been sent to the Education Authority, the Catholic Council of Maintained Schools, the Bishop of Dromore, the Secretary of State and a number of local politicians.

The letter states that on March 15, the DoE wrote to schools providing indicative budgets for the next financial year, which shows that significant cuts "are anticipated", even if a school's profile remains unchanged.

The principals also outlined that they expect a "further potential reduction of 2%, 4% or 6%".

"In April the Secretary of State James Brokenshire put forward a proposed budget which would see the education budget reduced by 2.5% which is equivalent to a reduction of £50 million," the joint letter stated.

"This is in light of our previous Minister of Education saying to the Education Committee that just to stand still schools required an additional £80 million per year over the next three years.

"It must be clearly understood that these are reductions on a budget that was imposed last year, a budget which was already grossly inadequate and which will this year, if this budget is imposed, be some £130 million short of what schools actually need." The principals went on to state that it would be impossible to make further staffing cuts without compromising children's education.

In light of the proposed cuts the schools have agreed to continue to place the needs of the pupils at the centre of their decision making and they will continue to exercise budgetary discretion and firm financial management within their schools.

"Further to this, rather than insisting that small schools are a drain on the public purse, we will be asking both Chief Executives to show their support for small schools especially rural schools and to celebrate the contribution they make to our communities," the letter continued.

"It is by having diversity in our education system that we are able to meet the unique needs of each of the communities our schools serve.

"We also call upon the Education Authority to abandon the aspiration of charging families to be transported to school.

"This goes against the principle of promoting school attendance and a universally free education system."

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