Report calls for Pounds 19m cut to funds for disadvantaged

4th July 1997 at 01:00
Northern Ireland's Department for Education is consulting on proposals to cut funding for socially-disadvantaged schools from Pounds 26 million to Pounds 7 million.

A report on changes to the local management system, written by consultants Coopers Lybrand, also suggests reducing the budgets of Irish language schools and removing cushioning for schools with falling rolls.

The Conservatives introduced Targeting Social Need in 1991 to help the disadvantaged.

Currently an average of Pounds 276 is allocated for every pupil entitled to free school meals. Coopers Lybrand say this should be about Pounds 75 per head, a cut of Pounds 19m.

They recommend schools should receive more money on a special educational needs factor. This would be assessed by new baseline tests on entry to primary schools (and then on tests in Year 2) and by tests at the end of key stage 2.

The consultants say the changes "may lead to considerable redistribution between schools. Indeed if they do not there is little point in the effort of introducing them".

The proposals will undoubtedly provoke fury. Many deprived schools stand to lose more than Pounds 100,000 if the changes go ahead.

Catholic schools will bear the brunt since their pupils are more than twice as likely to be entitled to free school meals as Protestants - 18 of the 20 most deprived secondaries are for Catholics.

The proposals conflict with the recent claim by Dr Mo Mowlam, Secretary of State, that the Government's approach "will continue to have Targeting Social Need (TSN) running as a thread throughout".

The consultation document will signal to schools that the new education minister, Tony Worthington, is considering cutting social deprivation funding instead of improving the TSN system.

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