A Lisburn prinicpal has welcomed the chance for local pupils’ input to possible changes on how schools are funded.
Gillian Dunlop, head of Harmony Hill primary and a Past President of Northern Ireland’s biggest locally-based teaching union, was speaking in the wake of Education Minister John O’Dowd’s call for students to voice their aspirations on how schools should be funded in future.
“We believe this shows how seriously the Minister is taking this issue – and deservedly so as it is one which has exercised the educational sector for many years,” said Mrs Dunlop, of the Ulster Teachers’ Union.
“The current system is an anachronism in today’s fast-paced, globalised marketplace. Children in Northern Ireland schools must be educated in a system which can keep pace with the best in the world if the economy is to have any chance of recovery.
“To do that we must ensure our children have access to the best possible teaching and resources available and for that reason the Minister must look carefully at how schools are funded.
“This is the perfect opportunity to look at the disparity between funding for primary and secondary school pupils if Minister O’Dowd is serious about taking a realistic, long-term approach to economic recovery.”
Shge went on: “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.
“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.
“We must not see resources go to primary schools at the expense of secondary schools – rather, primary school funding must be brought up to the level of secondary counterparts.
“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.”