11 Mid Ulster schools mired in debt

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The cash crisis crippling the educational system has been laid bare after it was revealed that a total of 11 schools in the Mid Ulster District are struggling to survive financially.

The local schools, nine primaries and two secondaries, are facing a desperate struggle to balance their books, having racked up debts worth £426,000 as of March 2015, according to the latest figures released by the Department of Education.

One of the schools, a secondary in the Dungannon District, is facing a deficit of £202,079.

A primary school in the Cookstown district has the next greatest debt, worth £45,988, while another primary in the Magherafelt area owes £43,938.

The news has sparked fears of teacher and classroom assistant redundancies and cancelled lessons, as headteachers struggle to cope with the deficits and try to bring their books in order.

However, the financial picture is much improved upon that of 2012, when the Tyrone Times revealed that six Dungannon schools had stacked up debts of £743,000.

In spite of grave warnings from the Department of Education that the Dungannon schools faced job cuts and even closure, five of the under-fire schools have managed to cancel their debt.

Remarkably, St Ciaran’s, Ballygawley, St Joseph’s High School, Coalisland, St Patrick’s Primary, Donaghmore, St Mary’s Primary, and Howard Primary School, Dungannon have cleared a combined deficit of more than £626,000 in just four years. The Education Department is facing a cash reduction of £72m in its resource budget for this year. It has repeatedly raised warnings about the viability of schools that are in debt.