Extended Schools decision underscores need to prioritise education funding

Upper Bann MLA Diane Dodds has called for a fundamental shake-up of how education in Northern Ireland is financed amid rising concern over pressures facing school budgets.

By Diane Dodds MLA

Upper Bann

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Commenting after meeting with representatives of the Department of Education the DUP Education Spokesperson said,

‘‘The Extended Schools programme is one of many impacted by the huge shortfall in our education budget. This programme is also unlikely to be the last casualty coming forward.

There is a huge deficiency in the baseline budget for education that must be tackled and this must mean placing it alongside the Department of Health as a budget priority. The Secretary of State must also take immediate budget decisions, which would then allow the in-year monitoring process to take place which could alleviate some pressures.

It must be remembered amongst this that the Extended Schools programme was funded through the Confidence and Supply agreement negotiated by the DUP. The threat to its future only serves to further underscore the value of that funding across many years now to children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The problems in our budget existed when the Executive and Assembly was fully-functioning and their restoration will not be a panacea to the challenges we face. There are fundamental issues with how public services are financed in Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the UK, and it is patently obvious the current funding model has failed.

There must be a clear and dedicated focus on the importance of our education system. If we are not to fail our children then we must prioritise them.”

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