Cookstown councillor hits out at proposed education cuts

Cookstown Councillor Robert Kelly
Cookstown Councillor Robert Kelly

COOKSTOWN UUP Councillor Robert Kelly has spoken out about the proposed cuts to school budgets calling them ‘shocking and misguided.’

In a statement, Councillor Kelly said he wants schools, parents and members of the public to fully engage in the consulation process in relation to the issue.

He said: “For many years the by-word in Ulster politics was dialogue, now every time we hear from our government ministers we hear of consultation after consultation.

“This is no more evident than the current consultation taking place within our education system over how they calculate annual school budgets. This new system would see the vast majority of school budgets cut dramatically, in some cases losses of up to £20,000.

“I think parents have the right to know that their children’s schools will be disadvantaged by these cuts and the schools in Cookstown district are being particularly targeted, to be precise, eighteen schools in the district will lose out. I fully realise that we need to invest in our children’s future, but the problem with these latest proposals is that the Education Minister intends to fix one problem by creating an even bigger one.

“The changes that John O’Dowd is trying to make would see four out of five schools having their funding reduced. Despite the fact that many of these are small, often rural and predominately but not exclusively controlled primary schools, already working within strict financial circumstances.

How can we expect schools to absorb annual cuts every year from now on? It is totally unreasonable.

“If these proposals are allowed to go ahead from next year, the sad reality will be an overall reduction in the opportunities available for our young people.”

Cllr Kelly added that he is calling on parents and schools to get involved in the process.

He said: “I am asking schools, parents and members of the public to fully engage in this consultation process. Although I have very little faith in so called consultation, at the moment these changes are only proposals and we must lodge our opposition to them up until 18th October.

“The Department of Education must be sent a very clear message, that while we must target social deprivation in areas across NI, we cannot make indiscriminate cuts to all other schools in order to pay for results and paper over the cracks that the Department should have been tackling long before now.”