18/11/2011

O'Dowd 'Adds £40m' For Schools Budget

NI schools have won a 'boost' with news that the Stormont Education Minister, John O'Dowd, has reallocated millions of pounds to fund developments.

Taken from earlier budget savings and cost-cutting measures, he said that figures of £10m, £15m and another £15m respectively would feed into the schools budget over the next three years.

The Sinn Fein Minister commented: "Following decisions on Budget 2010 which present major challenges for education over the period to 2014-15, my predecessor formulated a Savings Delivery Plan to realise the significant savings required.

"The intention was to protect frontline services as much as possible.

"Because of the scale of the Aggregated Schools Budget (ASB) it was impossible to protect it totally and the Savings Delivery Plan predicated savings of £27m, £85m, £114m and £180m.

"I have been conscious of the challenge this will pose for Boards of Governors under the Local Management of Schools framework.

"I have looked again at the ASB and have reallocated the [total] of £40m into the schools budget over the next three years.

"I am however not relenting on exploring the scope for further savings and have asked officials to carry out a review right across the education budget with the primary focus being to deliver additional funding for the classroom to benefit our children and young people," he continued.

"While individual school budgets for 2012/13 will not be available until early in the new year, the budgets I am announcing will provide early confirmation to schools of their anticipated funding levels going forward.

"This will ensure that schools have the clarity and certitude they need to properly plan to ensure that they live within their future budget allocations.
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"Funding authorities will now be asked by the Department to immediately engage with their schools to assess the implications. Under the Local Management of Schools framework, it will be for the Board of Governors of each school to revisit their School Development Plan and to consider and determine the action needed for them to remain within budget limits.

"The responsibility to rigorously monitor school spend against these plans will rest with the relevant funding authority," he said.

The Minister concluded: "Clearly many schools will have difficult choices to make but this early notification of future budgets should allow them to make informed decisions and plan for the future.

"I will continue to argue the case for further investment in the future to help alleviate pressures on the education budget."

However, the amount available in 2012-13 to schools' delegated budgets under the Local Management of Schools (LMS) arrangements is £1,093m compared to £1,126m in 2011-12.

This represents a real terms decrease in funding in 2012-13 of some £60m when compared to 2011-12.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Education Committee and DUP Education spokesman Mervyn Storey, welcomed the announcement of an additional £40m being advanced to the aggregated schools budget.

However, Mr Storey pointed out that more needs to be done: "I asked the Minister to make more funding available for the aggregated schools budget, it is welcome that the Minister has now found additional funds through his department which he is releasing to schools.

"There are many school principals in Northern Ireland who will be relieved to know that they will gain additional money to help with the day-to-day costs of running their schools.

"While £40m is a start, more funds need to be made available to help those schools which are succeeding in the classroom, to keep their teachers and to keep their buildings running each and every day, as they continue to deliver high quality education for every child," he added.

(BMcC/GK)

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