THE Chairman of the Lisburn Association of Primary Principals, Mr Harry Greer, has warned the Department of Education's "savage" budget cuts will have a detrimental impact on the education of local children.
Mr Greer, who is the principal of Harmony Hill, was speaking after Education Minister John O'Dowd announced 11% budget cuts over the next three years for schools in Northern Ireland. Making the announcement Mr O'Dowd said: "My Department issued a letter to all schools setting out in detail the future funding position they face. The cash value of the Age Weighted Pupil Unit is estimated to decrease by 5% next year, a further 1% in 2013/14 and a further 5% in 2014/15.
"It is important that schools and their funding authorities now examine this information and I would ask each school to call an early Board of Governors meeting to analyse their budget in light of this and agree the actions required to ensure that each school lives within its budget for the next three years.
"Clearly many schools will have difficult choices to make but this early notification of future budgets will allow them to make informed decisions and plan for the future," he continued. "I will continue to argue the case for further investment in the future to help alleviate pressures on the education budget. I will also continue to explore options for alternative savings."
But Mr Greer slammed the cuts as "irresponsible" and called for a "rethink" on the matter.
"These are unprecedented and irresponsible cuts which will effect every school and child," he said.
The cuts will be savage and damaging to children's education in Northern Ireland. "The Department of Education and the Minister appear to have no idea of the impact on learning and educational opportunities for young people.
"An urgent rethink is needed which could start with halting a number of costly initiatives in order to protect the needs of children."
Lagan Valley MLA Jonathan Craig also condemned the cuts. "As a member of the Education Committee and Chairman of the Board of Governors of a secondary school in Lisburn, I have pressed for urgent clarification on how the Education Department feels that schools throughout Northern Ireland are going to absorb these massive cuts," he said.
"The Chairman of the Education Committee, Mr Mervyn Storey, has called on the Minister to come before the Committee as a matter of urgency so that the Minister and Department can address the major concerns that schools in Northern Ireland have.
"I would once again appeal to the Minister and to the Department to have a serious rethink on this issue as it can only lead to a major detrimental impact on how education is delivered in Lagan Valley and further afield in the Province," concluded Mr Craig.