Funding gap risks economic recovery

Gillian Dunlop
Gillian Dunlop

THE Education Minister must address the funding gap between primary and secondary school pupils during his current review of the common funding scheme, a Lisburn principal has claimed.

Gillian Dunlop, head of Largymore Primary and Past President of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, fears the disparity could risk Northern Ireland’s long-term economic recovery.

“The Minister has undertaken to study the recent independent review of school funding over the coming weeks.

“This is the perfect opportunity to look at the disparity between funding for primary and secondary school pupils if he is serious about taking a realistic, long-term approach to economic recovery,” she said.

“There is a growing body of evidence for the importance of investment in the initial years of education.

“The Minister himself has embraced this in his investment in early years. Children develop most quickly in their formative years.

“Therefore, it is crucial that they gain a firm foundation in literacy, numeracy and academic skills if they are to maximise their career potential in future years, “ contimued Mrs Dunlop.

“Primary schools then need to be funded on a par with their secondary counterparts to ensure children get the best possible start in this increasingly competitive economic climate.

“Because all schools now follow a common curriculum, subjects like science, computer studies and technology are no longer the preserve of the secondary sector, and a change in the funding mechanisms could revolutionise Ulster schools.

“Under the present system an 11-year-old child is ‘worth’ less than a 12-year-old in funding terms. There is just no justification for the differential that exists at present.

“This huge funding difference manifests itself in the fact that secondary schools can have a better ratio of pupils to teacher and provide greater clerical and technical support.

“Primary schools need to be treated exactly the same as their secondary counterparts,” she concluded.