Belfast primary school principal warns of reduced hours and job losses due to energy price pressures

St Paul's Primary school in Belfast could have to reduce hours and staffing in order to keep the heat and lights on during the cost of living crisis

A primary school Principal has told UTV that there could be a possibility of reduced hours and "job losses somewhere down the line" if energy price pressures continue.

Sean McNamee said that so far this year St Paul's in Belfast had spent £6,000 on gas, while last year it spent around £1,000.

"There's only so much you can absorb before what you offer has to be impacted," he added.

"We could really be looking at, in real terms, job losses somewhere down the line.

"The last thing we want is to loose any good classroom assistants as a result of funding."

It comes as figures shared with UTV by the Education Authority (EA) confirm that schools across Northern Ireland are having to find an extra £17m to pay energy bills.

Costs for school transport provided by the EA are also set to soar.

Around 90,000 students and pupils rely on the service across Northern Ireland every day. It's expected it will cost an extra £10m this year compared to last - almost an extra £1m per month.  The cost of petrol and diesel alone will go up by 50%.

In a statement the EA said the current heating estimates include "the EA's estimated impact of the NI energy bill relief scheme". As for transport and fuel costs, the EA said "private operators have also received a temporary contractual adjustment in 2022/23 to reflect fluctuating fuel prices and transport assistance payments to parent have also been adjusted in line with this".At St Paul's Primary, staff are doing "the best we can really to minimise our use of gas and electricity, but it's very difficult," explained Mr McNamee. "Children need to be comfortable in order to be able to work, staff need to be comfortable as well so we can't really turn off the radiators, we can't turn off the gas.

"It is another stress that we really could do without, I know this is a global problem and a huge issue everywhere.

"When the cost of heating a building is as high as it is likely to be for us then things are going to have to go in other areas, things like the enjoyable trips out or bringing pantomimes in - things like that.

"It's also very, very difficult to ask parents and families for more money as families are having to face things within their own budget."

You can read more about energy price pressures facing street lighting, schools and health services across Northern Ireland by clicking here.

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