SCHOOLS across Fermanagh are set to be hit by the cost of living crisis as energy bills could rise by almost two-thirds during the winter months in Northern Ireland.
The Department of Education estimates a 60 per cent rise in the cost of oil, gas and electricity, which would result in an overall bill of £75 million in the current year compared to the £47m paid in 2021/22, the BBC reported.
The figure also includes soaring costs for some services provided by the Education Authority (EA) including school meals.
There are no details of government plans to help schools or about how the support package announced for businesses will assist them. Schools have to pay for heating, oil and gas from their own budgets.
Fermanagh principals know that it could be a harsh winter ahead, but are prepared for the worst.
St Kevin’s College in Lisnaskea is one of the local schools that will face the predicted increase in oil and fuel prices, but Principal Gary Kelly was determined that it would not affect his students’ education.
“Pupils cannot learn to their full potential if they are cold in class, it is simply not conducive to learning,” Mr Kelly said.
“St Kevin’s College will be keeping the heat on exactly the same as last year [and previous years] no matter if fuel and oil double in price.
“We have planned a comprehensive package of pupil and family supports in [2022 and 2023] this year including our Free Breakfast Club, the School Food Bank, and our Uniform Exchange Shop run by our PTA [Parent-Teacher Association].
“The governors and I cannot do all this support and then reduce/stop the school heating. The school will investigate other ways to try and save money to ensure our heating and electric remains to fully support pupils’ learning and needs.”
The head of Devenish College in Enniskillen, Simon Mowbray, told the BBC the school had already spent 73 per cent of its allocated budget for oil this financial year and 63 per cent of its allocated budget for gas.
“We are relatively well stocked but we will surpass amounts budgeted for,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said they were aware of the challenges faced by schools from rising energy costs, but that support from the government may help ease the pain.
“Officials from the department and the Education Authority continue to keep the situation under review to ensure that the estimated energy cost pressures which schools face are given due priority in any future discussions on the budget,” they said.
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