‘Cuts will hurt poorer pupils’

Millington Primary School Portadown  Photo by Google
Millington Primary School Portadown Photo by Google

Cuts to extra funding for primary schools will affect more than just breakfast clubs, warns Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie.

Mr Beattie is concerned at the Education Authority criteria for ‘much needed additional funding for schools’ and believes ‘children are paying the price for political failure’.

The MLA said: “I understand that some schools have had funding cut by the Education Authority (EA) as the percentage of pupils from a deprived area attending these schools - claiming free school meals - no longer meets the set threshold.

“This funding reduction has had a direct impact on the provisions of school breakfast clubs right across Upper Bann,” said Mr Beattie.

“This affects seven schools including St John the Baptist Primary school and Gilford Primary.

“The fact is however, this funding is not just used for a breakfast club, this funding is used by schools to provide other essential skills and experiences for our children.

“As an example Millington Primary – another one affected - have been able to provide their children with multiple opportunities and experiences.

“This has included accelerating reading clubs to help children develop this essential skill.

“New corner language clubs for those vulnerable children who are new to the area and need help to develop their English.

“School trips have also been affected meaning parents may have to contribute more towards an outing.

“In total Millington Primary have lost £24,000 even though up to 47% are entitled to free school meals.

“This is part of a much bigger issue within the education budget and I fear our children are paying the price for political failure.

“Investment in our children must be a priority and this issue will have a direct effect on the long term education on them,” said the Upper Bann MLA.

Principal of Millington Primary School Ms Heather Murray explained that they had 33 percent on free school meals though normally they have 40 percent on free school meals.

She added: “Our catchment or need has not changed just the criteria for awarding Free School Meals and benefits which obviously affects children who have benefitted from afterschool extended activities and will now be deprived.”