The TRC has joined with six other organisations representing the interests of schools, teachers and pupils in Northern Ireland to write to the Secretary of State to raise their shared concerns about the underfunding of education and the consequences for our children. The open letter is being published as Parliament prepares to consider the Northern Ireland Budget Bill.
The full text of the letter is below:
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris MP
20-32 Chichester Street
19 January 2023
Dear Secretary of State,
We would be failing the children and young people of Northern Ireland (NI) if we did not share our significant concerns about the impact of the current crisis in education funding. Without question, reduction in funding and ongoing under investment will negatively impact the quality of education of every child and young person living in NI. This is inequitable, as the funding for our children and young people is already significantly lower than that received by those in other regions.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has clearly highlighted this stark systemic underfunding of our education system. Their analysis evidences that since 2009-10, spending per pupil has been consistently highest in Scotland and generally lowest in NI. In 2021-22, spending per pupil is estimated to be £7,600 per pupil in Scotland but only £6,400 in NI. Spending per pupil in England is expected to be £6,700 with the equivalent figure being £6,600 in Wales. We question the lack of parity. Why is the education of a young person in NI valued less than those in England, Scotland and Wales?
In Autumn 2022, the Chancellor announced £2.3 billion of additional funding for schools in England in each of the 2023-24 and 2024-25 years, enabling continued investment in high quality teaching and importantly restoring per pupil funding to 2010 levels in real terms. Schools in NI have not started from a position of equal funding with their counterparts. Even considering the allocation of funding through Barnett consequentials, NI schools will not be able to restore 2010 levels of pupil funding comparable with proposals for England. Why is there such a lack of equality between the important funding commitments given to English pupils and our children and young people?
The current generation of children have already been adversely affected as a result of the pandemic. Schools face additional challenges as they support mental wellbeing and recovery of learning. These challenges will be compounded by a lack of educational funding, more money needs invested to support learning, yet we are looking at further cuts. Our schools are telling us that unless this under investment is addressed, it will be impossible to continue to provide our children and young people with an education that ensures they have the best start in life.
There is now a need for an urgent meeting involving everyone with a concern for the future of our children and young people. The focus must be on the restoration of education funding to levels that can fully support the needs of schools and ensure children have the best start in life. Failure to address this problem will have a negative impact for many generations to come. Education is essential to the creation of a sustainable economy for all. It is therefore imperative that we act now to ensure that our children and young people have and contribute to a positive future.
Chief Executive, Council for Catholic Maintained Schools
Príomhfheidhmeannach Gníomhach/Acting Chief Executive Officer, Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta
Chief Executive, Controlled Schools’ Support Council
Chief Executive, Catholic Schools’ Trustee Service
Chief Executive, Governing Bodies Association (NI)
Chief Executive Officer, Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education
Dr Andrew Brown
Chairperson, Transferor Representatives’ Council