Principals of 547 primary schools have signed an urgent letter to the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service over the ongoing funding crisis they say is making children and teachers suffer.
Those working in the education sector say funding has decreased to an unprecedented level, despite increasing and ever more complex demands on resources.
The stark letter to David Sterling notes that principals “universally report”:
a lack of essential maintenance
significant reductions in monies spent on essential learning resources
increased costs being passed on to parents
reductions and, in many cases, termination of essential support services
increased class sizes
reduced teaching and learning support staff
reduced and, in some cases, total withdrawal of learning support for children with additional needs
The letter further notes: “Our school leaders are crying out for help, exasperated by the lack of governance and with significantly increasing levels of stress and anxiety.
“Our teaching community is also on its knees, with our teachers carrying terrible levels of stress and increasingly excessive and unreasonable workloads.
“We believe that, not only do we have a crisis facing our schools right now, we also have a crisis looming within our teaching profession.”
These things are unacceptable. Our children and our frontline workforce are suffering.
The principals, on behalf of schools representing over 129,000 children, make an impassioned plea for Mr Sterling to help them.
“We appeal to you to do everything within your power to encourage our politicians to make our children and our schools their priority as they negotiate the terms of a new Programme for Government,” they write.
“For the children in our schools, this is our government’s only chance.”
The budget squeeze can mean schools increasingly having to ask parents to contribute towards resources to support the learning of their children – putting pressure on families.
Many of those working in the education sector feel the current situation is unsustainable.