Primary School Relies On Donations From Parents Due To Budget Cuts

A committee of MPs has been told that a Northern Ireland Primary School is relying on donations from parents due to a lack of funding.

The Principal of Maghaberry Primary School in County Antrim, Graham Gault, was speaking at a Northern Ireland Affairs committee hearing into education funding.

He accused local politicians of playing "pathetic games" while pupils suffer the consequences, and said that despite Maghaberry being a popular and sustainable school, it would have a six-figure budget deficit by the end of the financial year.

Dr Gault was one of four local principals giving evidence to the committee in Westminster on Wednesday 31 October.

"I've actually found myself in the humiliating position of begging my parents to support the wellbeing of their children by providing Pritt Stick, reading books, tissues and soap," he said.

"I actually have parents- and this isn't a joke- who are donating toilet roll to my school.

"It feels Victorian, it's a disgrace."
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Later, in a response to a question from North Down MP Lady Sylvia Hermon on the impact of the lack of a functioning assembly, Dr Gault launched an attack on local politicians, and said the level of political discourse in Northern Ireland is something he wouldn't even allow in his playground.

"My children beg for a field of politics that is based around integrity, honesty and authenticity and looks at their needs rather than the needs of party politics and petty squabbles."

He was speaking alongside Nigel Frith, the head of Drumragh Integrated College in Omagh, who said the mental health problems within schools are "nowhere near being addressed effectively".

"My central role as a principal has become trying to scan across the school in a daily basis to see who's ok and who's not ok to try and get to the ones who are not before they fall."

Dierdre Gillespie represented St Mary's Grammar School in Magharafelt at the committee hearing, as well as Jo McColgan of Ashfield Boys' School in east Belfast.


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