The Education Authority (EA) has analysed the financial position of about 1,000 schools for 2018/19. Its figures show 446 schools are projected to be in the red in 2018. Out of those 446, exactly 352 have seen their deficits increase since 2017/18. The BBC reports.
In 2018, for the first time, the EA has put schools into a number of categories depending on their budgetary situation. In the most serious category, 97 schools have increasing deficits of more than 5% of their total yearly budget and do not meet key sustainability criteria.
Meanwhile, 130 schools have increasing deficits of more than 5% of their total yearly budget but are judged to be sustainable.
As a result, the EA is to appoint specialist staff to work with each of those 227 schools on their budget.
The NI Audit Office has also said that school budgets have reduced by 10% in real terms over the past five years.
The EA’s language and communication service has organised over 30 training courses for teachers in the next five months, but cannot pay schools for the cost of substitute teacher cover to enable staff to attend.
The principal of Dromara Primary, Andy Armstrong, said the situation was “beyond a joke”.
“I just felt so deflated, that while courses are being offered we can’t afford to send anyone,” he said.
Deidre Gillespie, principal of St Mary’s Grammar in Magherafelt, said there needs to be a “root and branch review” of how money is spent within the education system.
“Over the past six to seven years, schools have embarked on a series of cost-cutting measures and we’ve got to the stage now where there are no longer any savings to make within our budgets,” she said.
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