Northern Ireland

Education Authority warns of 'pressures' after £22m budget cut

Gavin Boyd
Image caption Gavin Boyd, chief executive of the Education Authority, has sent a letter to school principals in Northern Ireland warning them of budgetary pressures

The head of Northern Ireland's Education Authority (EA) has warned that it is facing "very real pressures" due to a £22m reduction in its budget.

The EA delivers and funds things like school transport, meals and support for special educational needs.

It also provides other services like educational psychology and welfare.

In a letter, sent to school principals, EA's chief executive Gavin Boyd warns that the body will have to make "difficult decisions".

"I recognise the difficulties this creates for schools but you will appreciate the very real pressures for the authority as demand for services continues to increase," Mr Boyd's letter said.

"We are at the beginning of a journey of transformation."

The authority's budget had previously been reduced from £405m in 2014/15 to approximately £396m in 2015/16.

'Absolutely appalling'

Some school principals have expressed concern that frontline services could be at risk due to the reductions.

The principal of Seaview Primary School in Belfast, Corinne Latham, said that they relied on EA to provide help for many of its 440 pupils.

"Some of our children have very acute needs, and it is our responsibility under law to provide for those needs," she said.

Image caption Corinne Latham, principal of Seaview Primary School in Belfast, said children's rights were being ignored

"This is absolutely appalling because some of the ground services we receive from the EA are just not there already.

"We have some children who are not attending school as often as they should.

"I have had to get in touch with the Education Welfare officer for this area, and he doesn't have the people on the ground to support those children.

"I think children in Northern Ireland are going to face the worst of these cuts, and unfortunately their rights are being totally ignored."

'Challenging decisions'

Recently, groups representing the leaders of 80 large schools warned schools would see larger class sizes, fewer teachers and be able to offer fewer subjects due to rising costs.

Image caption Headmaster Kevin Donaghy said pupils' parents should be asking their politicians to take action on school funding

This had led to a number of principals writing to directly to parents of pupils outlining the situation in their school.

Kevin Donaghy, principal of St Colman's Primary in Annaclone, County Down, sent a letter to parents stating that his school is facing a £41,000 rise in salary costs.

"Parents need to be aware that there are challenging decisions that we as principals have to take," he said.

"They need to be asking political representatives what they are going to do to help children.

"The various political parties say they want a first-class education system. The only way we can get a first-class system is to actually fund it properly," he added.