£6,500 start-up bill per pupil at new South Derry Irish school

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Staff start-up costs for a new post primary Irish language school in South Derry have totalled £91,000, that’s on top of an estimated £1m spent on building the school in the first place.

Gaelcholáiste Dhoire in Dungiven opened on 1 September with 14 pupils enrolled, which means that the start-up costs work out at £6,500 per student.

The costs were revealed by Education minister John O’Dowd at the Northern Ireland Assembly, after a question tabled by DUP MLA Gregory Campbell asking for details of the initial costs associated with the school, including salaries, pension contributions of all staff in the first year, any capital costs, planning and any other associated costs.

Earlier in the year, O’Dowd was pressed to justify spending almost £1m on the Dungiven school – after he announced plans to slash 1,500 jobs from schools due to cutbacks.

He has warned that budget cuts of £28m will result in 500 job losses for teachers and 1,000 for non-teaching staff across Northern Ireland’s new education regions.

“As each year passes, the decisions you have to make then become more and more difficult,” he said.

The minister went on to say that language teaching in primary schools was ending and that the new Education Authority is facing cuts of £9.9 million, mainly through staff reductions.

Speaking this week about Gaelcholáiste Dhoire, Minister O’Dowd said: “Total costs relating to the pre-opening period are currently estimated at £91,053. This amount covers salaries (including employer National Insurance cost), employer pension contributions, legal fees and insurance, consultancy, job adverts, equipment, signage, rent, marketing, travel and office overheads.

“It is not possible to disaggregate costs as to do so may disclose personal information about an individual,” said the Sinn Fein representative,

“The school’s running costs in the current financial year, which include the pension costs of all staff in the first year, will not be known until the current financial year ends on 31 March 2016.”