Principal fears for kids’ education

AN Enniskillen native, who is the principal of one of the largest girls’ schools in Belfast, has highlighted the desperate situation schools are finding themselves in as they try to balance the books amid budget cuts.

Jackie Bartley is principal of St Genevieve’s High School in the Andersonstown area of west Belfast. She detailed how teachers are reaching into their own pockets to provide basic items for pupils and equipment for the classroom like glue and rulers.

“We have staff buying things and we’ve been doing that for quite a while as we’re down to the bare bones financially,” Ms Bartley said. “For the first time this year, we have also turned to local charities to help. It’s unsustainable the way things are.


“We have a duty of care that our children have the best teaching and learning environment possible, but any budgetary cuts we are forced to make have an immediate impact on every child that comes in through the doors of this school.

“It’s getting too expensive to even hire a bus to bring children to the museum or an art gallery. It’s limiting the experience of kids.”

Ms Bartley is in her 12th year as a school principal – this is her fifth year at St Genevieve’s. Before this, she was at St Pius X College in Magherafelt – but worse could be in store for the more than 1,000 girls attending St Genevieve’s following warnings from the Education Authority (EA) that schools will have to find further ways to save money.

EA chief executive Sara Long wrote to schools last week after refusing to support a further £110 million of cuts it has been told to deliver by Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris by the end of March.

However, Mr Heaton-Harris is adamant major cuts will still have to be made despite the fact teachers are already reaching into their own pockets to provide basic equipment.

“We are here to serve the needs of all the girls studying at this school every single day, but our budget is already nowhere near meeting the needs of each of those kids every day,” Ms Barkley said. “So, it’s totally unrealistic to be expected to make even more cuts. Our job as school leaders is to protect our children.”

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