Northern Ireland

500 teaching jobs under threat warns INTO

Child in school
Image caption The union said children's education would suffer

Up to 500 teachers' jobs could be lost despite what looks like a better budget for schools, a union has warned.

The Irish National Teaching Organisation (INTO) said the Department of Education NI (Deni) had not made provision for real term increases.

A departmental letter sent to schools this week warned them they would have to make "difficult decisions".

It stressed they had to live "within their budgets as a matter of urgency".

"Put simply, boards of governors cannot spend more than they receive without the express and advance approval of their funding authority and must not plan to do so," the letter from Deni finance director Trevor Connolly said.

However. schools have not yet been told what their budget for the next year will be and are likely to find out only at the end of this month, one month before they start spending it.

Despite an assurance that money had been found to increase schools' spending, the union said it did not take into account the extra costs principals have to cover.

Tony Carlin, INTO, said the department had not made provision for real term increases.

"The increased monies were only in respect of cash terms, schools were not protected from inflation, external financial pressures, pay rises etc," he said.

"The result will be that schools will probably face around 3.5% to 4% cuts this year.

"There will be about 500 teaching posts lost and also support staff's jobs will be lost as well.

"The schools believed that they had money but unfortunately the devil is in the detail in this one. We are disappointed because ultimately children's education will suffer."

Mr Carlin said there would also the the impact of another £83m in savings.

"This could mean cuts perhaps to school meals, transport, special needs, crossing patrols. This is going to impact on schools indirectly and on the education of pupils."

The union said "drip feed" was an unacceptable way to fund schools and has called on the Department of Education to set up a working group to find a new way of planning budgets.

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