Northern Ireland

Schools 'face difficult decisions' to stay in budget

Coins, a jar and a mortarboard Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Department of Education's finance director warned that education faces a "challenging" outcome in the budget

Schools have been told they face making "difficult decisions" to stay within budget in 2019-20.

The warning comes in a letter from the finance director at the Department of Education (DE), Gary Fair.

Mr Fair also wrote that education faced a "challenging" outcome from the Northern Ireland budget

However, he said there would be an extra £7.25m for the aggregated schools budget (ASB) in 2019-20.

That is a 0.6% rise on the £1.167bn funding to schools in 2018-19.

Schools will also receive an additional £54.6m specifically to pay for an increase in public sector pension costs - including teachers - which is to take effect on 1 April.

Maintaining funding

The ASB is the money that goes directly to more than 1,000 schools funded by the department.

The money a school receives each year is based on a number of factors, including the number of pupils it has, the number of pupils with additional needs and the size of the school buildings.

About 80% to 90% of a school's funding is normally used to pay staffing costs, including teachers and classroom assistants.

Mr Fair said that the department would be able to maintain the amount of funding schools received per pupil at current levels.

That follows reductions in recent years.

Schools have also had their individual financial allocations for 2019-20 confirmed.

'Do not underestimate challenges'

"It is essential that all school budgets are managed on the assumption that there will be no further in-year allocations from the department during the 2019-20 financial year," Mr Fair wrote.

"I fully appreciate the difficulties that this budget outcome will mean for schools and I do not underestimate the challenges ahead."

The Northern Ireland Audit Office has previously said the aggregated schools budget had decreased by 10.4% in real terms since 2012-13.

The Education Authority has also said that almost half of Northern Ireland's schools will be in deficit this year.

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