Principal of St Colman’s Primary School, Lambeg , Gerry McVeigh, has stressed how his school will lose out if planned budget cuts gets the go-ahead.
The Department of Education plans to change how money is allocated to schools, in an attempt, it says, to tackle deprivation by targeting funds at those most in need.
More than 160 schools throughout Northern Ireland are to benefit, especially those who have a lot of pupils entitled to free school meals, but many, like the Lambeg primary school, are set to lose out.”
Mr McVeigh a member of the NIPPAG, Northern Ireland Primary Principals Action Group, has written to parents to encourage them to lobby their politicians to get the plan stopped.
He has been to Stormont and plans to talk to the Education Minister at Stormont in November.
He complained that using free school meal entitlement as a deciding factor for other schools to get extra money was both ‘unfair’ and ‘unjust.’
The consultation period for the proposals is set to end next week.
Mr McVeigh means to do what he can to stop any job losses in his school.
“I will make sure there will be no job losses here,” he said. “I am determined. We have four classroom assistants who are needed; the children need that support. We give the children a a brilliant education here and we will continue to give them that level of education that is expected here.
“I think the concept is good - I am not here to slate the idea - but there must be a better way to fund it. If this goes ahead the ramifications will be enormous.
“It is a very unfair system that is just not thought through. I could keep my head down and not say anything but this is a point of principle. I would be doing my school and children a disservice if I did not flag this up and talk about it. The ramification for primary schools will be very serious and will be the death-knell for many.
“If we fight this they may come back and say there are no other avenues to explore but we must all fight against this idea.
“We deal with difficult things day and daily but if this goes ahead I fear the affect it will have on our children.
“We are set to lose far too much far too soon.
“Some schools will benefit £200,000 a year and when you multiply that by three years that is the sort of figures you are talking about.
“There is a local school that will lose £5,000; it is not such a big school but it will have a detrimental effect on them.
“Some schools will lose teachers, which means that there will be more pressure on those left behind and bigger classes with no classroom assistant support. It is going to affect the morale and health of those teachers left behind.”
A mother also spoke of her concerns. Karen McConnell, whose child attends Pond Park Primary, said, “I received a letter home from my children’s primary school, explaining the full impact of the Minister for Education’s proposals to divert more funds away from primary school budgets to fund his Targeting Social Need initiative.
“In real terms this means a loss of approximately £27,000 per year for the next three years to our primary school; other schools in the Lisburn area may be impacted in a similar manner.
“This is due to the fact that a large percentage of the children from this school come from families where parents are gainfully employed and as a result the school has a smaller percentage of children who benefit from free school meals.
“I would urge every parent to complete the consultation document on the DENI website and register their disapproval of this unfair system, this needs to be done before the October 18.
“The message from Stormont is loud and clear; the harder we work the less our children will receive in return.”