TUV Leader Jim Allister has hit out at the threat to rural primary schools posed by John O’Dowd’s review of the Common Funding Formula and, in particular, his plan to withdraw the Small Schools Subsidy.
In a statement Jim Allister said:-
“The sectarian dimension of the minister’s approach is obvious, in that his reform of the Common Funding Formula will hit the controlled sector hardest, but an additional element, which has not had the attention it deserves, is his plan to abolish the Small Schools Subsidy. This will devastate many smaller rural schools. These are schools which make a vital contribution to our educational provision and mix.
“A 80 pupil rural school will see its delegated budget slashed by over £40000. This will mean redundancies, maybe of two teachers, leaving composite classes above the criteria set by Primary Area Planning, and, thereby, closure will be accelerated. This I suspect is the minister’s agenda.
“Also, schools will be unable to meet their obligations to SENCO pupils i.e. providing extra literacy and numeracy support for under attaining pupils.
“And, of course, once schools run into significant deficit the schools will be deemed not to be economically viable and, thereby, another box for closure is ticked.
“Thus in O’Dowd’s approach I discern a scarcely concealed agenda to strangle and close many rural schools. The Small School Subsidy is indispensable and must not be removed. The entire rural community needs to get behind their local schools and respond to the current consultation on the Common Funding Formula.”