As reported by BBC news, the Department of Education (DE) has bid for an extra £427m in funding in the 2020/21 budget
The education budget – which covers schools and youth services – is one of Stormont’s biggest at about £2bn a year. However, pressures have increased across a number of areas, a DE official told MLAs.
By 2022, an extra £716m will be needed compared to this year, according to the DE’s director of finance Gary Fair. Fair detailed the need for extra money while giving evidence to Stormont’s education committee. He said the increase was needed to pay for things like a teachers’ pay settlement, increasing special educational needs support costs and essential maintenance work in schools.
“All we’ve been able to do is fund the minimum, the real things that might hit the crisis point in terms of health and safety,” he said.
“The reality is there’s a lot of work required across the education estate.”
About £44m extra was required to meet increased SEND costs for pupil support in mainstream schools, special schools and transport.
Fair said that the department was also bidding for £23m for a voluntary exit scheme to allow about 200 teachers and also an unspecified number of classroom assistants to leave their jobs early.
The committee chairman, Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle, asked Fair how realistic that total rise in funding was. In response Fair said cuts to ‘front line’ services to children and young people would have to be considered if significant extra funding was not provided.
“Invariably you’re having to make people redundant, stop quite critical services that are having significant impact on the educational welfare of children and young people,” he said.
“If we didn’t get a significant proportion of what we’re seeking here we’d be in that position again, that’s the reality.”