FERMANAGH school principals are yet again facing difficult decisions as they come to terms with a further slash in their budgets for the next academic year.
The Department of Education’s Finance Director, Gary Fair has written to local schools following the 2018-19 budget and warned principals that there is no money to pay for additional pressures they may face this year.
The Department’s next budget will be £4.9m smaller than this financial year. Locally schools face cuts of between £5,000 in those around 100 pupils and up to £25,000 in some larger schools.
Marie O’Shea is principal of St John the Baptist PS in Belleek and Secretary to Fermanagh Primary Principals Group. She told the Herald:
“If we are to do our jobs as school leaders and provide opportunities that will continue to improve the life chances of the children in our care, we need a properly funded budget which allows for the teaching of a well-rounded and balanced curriculum.
“School staff are here to do a job for our children and our families but we are being restricted. Staff levels will fall to challenging levels and not all children will receive the support they require. Already small schools rely on a bank of volunteers from the parent body to support them with supervision at key parts of the school programme.”
Ms O’Shea says schools will have to consider asking parents to pay more towards their children’s education: “There will be a greater expectation on parents for this in the future alongside a need for them to contribute directly to school funds to pay for books, classroom resources, utilities, transport to sporting and school events and many more things as well. This will become the norm as it is in some areas already.
“It is vital that schools are given the ability to continue to teach, in order to do this, they must be properly resourced and financed,” she added.
Concerns have also been Principal of Lisbellaw PS, Ingrid Logan where 216 children will be enrolled next September.
“Our numbers will be the highest they have been in many years with an intake of 30 children yet our budget is down £18,000 for next year, even though we have more children than ever.
“Our Parent-Teacher Association raise money and provide many resources for our school which otherwise we could not afford to provide. Without this input we would really struggle.
“I feel strongly that education is at a crisis point. I have been teaching many years and this deterioration in funding grieves me greatly,” she added.
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