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Education Minister welcomes support on primary school funding

1 July, 2008 - by Caitríona Ruane

Sinn Féin Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has welcomed the call from the Assembly Education Committee to debate the issues on funding provided to primary schools.

The minister said:

"I recognise fully the importance of adequate support to ensure that our children get the best start to their school years. In considering the distribution of the Education Budget in February a key issue for me was funding for primary schools. In the course of the Budget consultation, I listened to the concerns of primary teachers and responded by making provision for an increase in the primary pupil weighting from 1.02 to 1.04 in 2008-09 with a view to increasing this progressively over the Budget period to 1.06 by 20010-11.

"In addition to this, over the three years of the budget period, almost £12million is being provided to help primary school teaching principals in recognition of the pressures they face and a further £32 million to support primary schools with the delivery of the foundation stage of the revised curriculum.

"In addition to these cash elements, I have introduced a sports and languages programme in primary schools that choose to participate.

"These actions demonstrate my recognition of the vital role primary schools have in giving our children the best possible foundation for their education and my commitment to putting more money into primary schools. Last week I launched a strategy to improve literacy and numeracy skills. Primary schools are fundamental in developing these skills early in our children to support them throughout their lives.

"I will shortly be initiating a review of current funding arrangements, including the needs of all schools. This review will help to ensure future funding arrangements improve the educational experience of all children and young people."

In relation to funding levels in the future the minister said that the level of funding which could be made available in future years would depend on the level of available resources and competing priorities.

The minister continued:

"Education and the future of our children must be a priority for all of us but we need to recognise there is a finite pot of available resources and that means choices have to be made."

The minister went on to say that in the context of the constrained financial position facing the Executive, there was a need for everyone to ensure that every penny that was made available was used well. The minister said the establishment of the Education and Skills Authority (ESA) would do this through streamlining the administration of education in a way that would free up resources to go directly to front line services. It will also achieve initial estimated cash savings of around £20million annually and help to deliver real improvements in educational outcomes for all schools.

The minister concluded:

"I welcome the call from the Education Committee and would ask members from all parties to support my efforts to secure increases in future Education budgets." ENDS

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