Cookstown council motion on education budget defeated

Education
Education

THE council are to call on the Education Minister to extend the period of consultation that will decide the future of many schools in the area.

But during Tuesday night’s meeting, a motion asking the minister to abandon his proposals and rethink how annual school budgets are decided was defeated.

Until now, which schools gain or lose funding has been based on the number of children who get free school meals.

But the UUP argued that this method of identifying areas of social deprivation is “grossly unfair” and that a more balanced funding formula is needed.

Councillors Wilson and McCrea from the UUP and DUP respectively, supported the motion, which was put forward by the UUP.

And while both Sinn Fein and the SDLP voted against it, a counter-proposal to write to the minister asking that the consultation period be extended to the end of November was eventually approved.

Speaking on the call for the education minister to scrap his proposals, Sinn Fein’s Councillor McNamee, said “We will not be supporting the motion. Any party making their views known should do it through the consultation process.”

The SDLP’s Councillor McGarvey added: “The SDLP can’t support this motion.

“Whilst recognising the proposals, they don’t say how that can be done.

“The formula for school meals might not be the best way, but no-one has suggested a better way.

“This should be revisited when the consultation period is over,” he added.

Councillor Kelly (UUP) agreed the move was premature as the original consultation period has not yet ended, but added: “18 out of 23 schools in the Cookstown district are losing funding, that’s why we proposed the motion.”

The DUP’s Councillor McCrea told the MAIL that schools should be given a chance to put their proposals forward on how savings can be made in education, as those on the “cold face” of the decisions that the minister is making.