Schools budget plan ‘will not work’ say principals

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Primary school principals are warning jobs could be lost and children’s education affected under new budget cuts.

Chris Scott, principal of Seagoe PS, has described the government-imposed spending as “unworkable” and the worst he has seen in his 17 years as principal.

He said he would be recommending to his governors that they do not accept the three-year plan, adding, “I am not prepared to jeopardise our educational excellence.

“We are a growth school and any cuts would mean a loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds, and cutting teaching and non-teaching staff. My governors will not be prepared to do this. We are going to put in our budget the way it is - we will be in the red - and then ask the Government what they are going to do about it.”

He urged Seagoe parents and those in other schools to approach MLAs and councillors to lobby for more funding.

His concern is shared by Richmount PS principal Mark Hall, who said while his school was not too badly affected, others were, and predicted classroom assistants would be the first to go.

He also said schools are effectively being penalised for having more experienced staff, and that the cuts would be reflected in recruitment, with less experienced teachers being employed because they were cheaper to pay.

However, he said the reality was that cuts would have to be made to stay within the budget.

Under the new arrangements, the Government has passed on extra staffing costs to schools but without increasing the money to cover them.

Education Minister John O’Dowd said, “As we are all aware, the budget position for all departments remains very challenging. As a result of reductions imposed by the Westminster Government, the overall Executive Resource Budget for 2016-17 has been reduced in real terms. However, although the budget... is challenging, the position is significantly better than previously anticipated.”