Dodds – “school pay inequality cannot be sustained”

DUP Education Spokesperson Diane Dodds MLA has said support staff in schools throughout Northern Ireland deserve a fair pay award. She was commenting as the four unions representing bus drivers, school catering staff, classroom assistants, cleaners and other support workers take strike on Thursday 16 November.

By Diane Dodds MLA

Upper Bann

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Mrs Dodds said,

‘‘Non-teaching staff play an invaluable role in supporting the delivery of education for our children and young people. Just like their counterparts in the rest of the United Kingdom, they deserve proper pay and for those awards to be made in a timely manner.

Regrettably, the chronic underfunding of education, as with other frontline services, has rendered the Department, and an Executive, powerless to deliver on the expectations of our dedicated staff in respect of their pay. The money we receive from the Treasury is not based on an assessment of need. This has systematically attacked our capacity to deliver public services that are fit for the 21st century. The crisis in public sector pay is just one symptom of that.

It is entirely wrong that our education workforce is collateral damage because of the Secretary of State’s ongoing failure to recognise the need for change to how Northern Ireland is funded.

Top civil servants have warned of a £450m overspend by local departments this year - and that assumes that not a single penny of a pay rise is given to public sector workers. This underlines the scale of the threat. Let’s not forget that Chris Heaton-Harris chose to reduce the Northern Ireland education budget by nearly 3% while the schools budget increased by 6% in England.

This inequality cannot be sustained. The Government needs to urgently realise that the failure to fund and ringfence pay awards for teachers, classroom assistants and the diverse range of staff roles in education is creating a chilling effect in terms of recruitment and retention and will inevitably lead to disruption in our classrooms. This needs to be addressed and quickly.”

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