O’Dowd announces further funding allocations
Education will benefit from further funding allocations of £72million over the next three years following a review of the education budget.
Early Years, Extended Schools, the Youth Service and maintenance of the school estate are among areas allocated funding following an internal review that has led to further reductions in bureaucracy and savings from other educational services.
Low income families will also benefit with additional funding being allocated for free school meals and uniform grants.
Speaking about the allocations the Minister said: “Education continues to face tough financial challenges. As Minister, I must ensure that the funding available is used in the most effective manner. The internal review of budgets I commissioned last year has been completed and has identified savings which I am re-investing in front-line education and youth services.”
Turning to the detail of the allocations, the Minister said: “The maintenance backlog in schools remains significant. It is time that serious in-roads are made in this area as failure to do so now will only compound the problem. That is why I am announcing a ring fenced allocation of £27million in 2012-13 to help address this critical issue. This will be welcome news for the beleaguered construction industry.”
The Minister also spoke of the importance of Early Years. He said: “I have consistently highlighted the benefits of early intervention for the educational outcomes of our children. As I announced in the Assembly last month, I am providing the funds necessary to deliver on the Executive’s commitment in the Programme for Government to ensure that there is at least one year of pre-school education available for every family who wants it. If however further investment is needed to deliver on this commitment then I will not be found wanting. I also announced at that time that I am making available an additional £150 per annum for each pre-school place in the voluntary/private sector and allowing for expansion of the Sure Start programme to reach 25% of the most disadvantaged areas, to ensure that more children from those areas will get the best start in life. In total, these measures amount to a further £13.1million over the next three years.”
Moving to Extended Schools and the Youth Service, the Minister said: “I am increasing the funding for the Extended Schools programme by £3.6million over the next three years. This will assist the involvement of parents in the life of the school and will allow them to support the development of their child’s literacy and numeracy skills.
“I am also investing an additional £1million this year rising to £2million a year thereafter, for youth services. This is a total further investment of £5million over the next three years. One area where this funding will be used is in providing support within disadvantaged areas by increasing access to mainstream youth services and outreach/detached youth work.”
The Minister reaffirmed his commitment to tackling social need and disadvantage and said: “It is increasingly important in these difficult financial times to support those families most in need. Around 75,000 pupils are currently entitled to free school meals. That is why I am providing a further £3.9million over the next three years to ensure that the rising numbers of children in lower income families receive the uniform grants and free school meals to which they are entitled.”
Mr O’Dowd also announced funding to assist Boards of Governors to focus on raising standards in schools; to ensure all dedicated school buses have the appropriate signage and lighting; to help develop Area Learning Communities; to set money aside for Special Schools in recognition of increasing demand; and to support a project in Belfast focusing on raising standards and tackling disadvantage.
On the issue of capital funding the Minister indicated: “I am also looking at my capital budget and how best to allocate the reduced funding available to me and will be making an announcement shortly.”
The Minister concluded: “Today’s allocations have only been made possible by my efforts to drive out inefficiencies and reduce bureaucracy. Despite these further allocations from within my own budget, I will continue at every available opportunity to seek increased funding for education."