Northern Ireland

Parents asked to pay as 'crisis' hits Newry school

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Image caption The letter has been sent to the parents of all 390 pupils in the school

No education budget means parents will have to pay for after-school activities and music provision, the principal of one Northern Ireland primary school has warned.

Kevin Donaghy, from St Ronan's Primary School in Newry called the situation faced by the school a "crisis".

In a letter to parents, he said politicians had failed to "put aside old animosities and work for the benefit of our children".

He also warned of "devastating cuts".

"It was widely hoped that the different political parties would, for the betterment of all, be able to put aside their differences," he wrote.

"Unfortunately we see that this continued failure to reach an agreement means that education will now not have a budget."

The letter - headed "schools in financial crisis due to NI Executive failure to set a budget for education" - has been sent to the parents of all 390 pupils in the school.

In it, Mr Donaghy told parents that he has to make a further £46,000 of cuts in 2017-18, having already saved £30,000 in 2016-17.

"The amount of money we have to run and maintain the school has been dramatically decreased," he wrote.

He said that this would mean the school would have to reduce "special education support and classroom assistant support".

"We will have to ask you to financially contribute to programs such as after-school programmes and our music, which we as a school have paid in the past," he said.

"We can no longer afford to do this."

'Substantial deficit'

Mr Donaghy said that he would have to end Spanish lessons for all pupils if the school parents association cannot raise the money to pay for them.

He also told parents that the school would get less funding as fewer than 30% of its pupils are entitled to free school meals.

"The money we now receive from the Department of Education will not cover our expenditure," he wrote.

"Within three years, unless funding is dramatically increased, we as a school will be in substantial deficit."

St Ronan's Primary School currently receives annual funding of more than £1m from the Department of Education (DE).

It has been able to balance its books and remain within budget in recent years.

However, a separate document published by DE shows that the school is forecast to be in the red by £47,000 in the 2018-19 school year.

Last month, all schools were told that they faced "an extremely challenging budgetary position in 2017-18".

The warning came in a letter from the finance director at the Department of Education, Gary Fair.

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