THE costliest schools to run in Femanagh, per capita, are state secondary schools and the county’s only Irish medium primary school, it can be revealed
The cost of educating individual pupils in Irish medium primary schools have almost tripled in the last ten years while student costs in Controlled (mainly non-Catholic) secondary schools have risen by over £3,400 per child in the same time period.
This is in stark contrast to other schools in the county – including (mainly Catholic) Maintained and integrated at secondary level and mainstream primary schools – which saw an average cost rise of £1,322 per pupil since 2004.
Irish Medium schools at primary level experienced the biggest jump from £2,257 per pupil in 2004 to £6,419 last year.
The figures were revealed after local UUP MLA Tom Elliott tabled a question to the Education Minister John O’Dowd.
He also highlighted the divide in capital spending between Protestant and Catholic schools over the last seven years.
Since 2006, there have been over £18m spent on Maintained primary, secondary and grammar schools, whereas Controlled schools have received less than £5m during the same time.
The local MLA has called for more funding to go into the Controlled sector schools, particularly Devenish College, Enniskillen, which has been earmarked for a new building.
“These figures would point to an imbalance in capital spending between the maintained and controlled sectors,” he said.
“However, while I’m sure there are reasons for this, the controlled sector, especially Devenish, needs more spending.
“We have already used these figures in debates and I’m hoping to meet with the Education Minister about this issue. I want to bring this case to him, particularly Devenish.
“There’s a clear imbalance in capital spending and we need to press on with Devenish College and not let anything stand in the way for its new-build.
“But I’m sure there’s an imbalance everywhere and a similar situation in other places like Tyrone. The integrated sector had almost £4m in capital spending and when we think of the amount of pupils attending integrated schools compared to the controlled sector.
“It’s not about the amount spent on the maintained sector but the amount that hasn’t been spent in the controlled sector – that’s the real problem.
“I want to know is there enough money going into controlled sector and how it compares to spend per pupil.”
The MLA also stated the rise in pupil costs in Irish Medium schools could be because of smaller student numbers.
He went on to say that other schools which have similar student numbers are often at risk of closing.
He concluded: “The Controlled sector is slightly above average pupil costs, but I don’t see anything highly significant in difference accept for the Irish Medium. Any other school would be under huge pressure to close if they had similar numbers attending Irish medium schools.”
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition