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(UK) Crisis: Special ed is "more than half of the additional budget pressures"

Nov 10, 2022, BBC News: NI Education Authority facing risk over £300m [$350M] deficit

The Education Authority (EA) is facing a "serious degree" of financial risk and a rising budget deficit of £300m [$350M]. That is according to the most recent minutes of one of its committees. The EA is an arms-length body of the Department of Education (DE) and funds schools, transport, meals, special educational needs (SEN) and youth services. The committee was also told rising energy costs may force schools to close due to falling room temperatures. Inflation and pay pressures were also cited as some of the factors impacting the EA's budget. With a budget of more than £2bn it is responsible for the bulk of education spending in Northern Ireland. SCHOOL CLOSURES In August, the EA was estimated to be facing a potential financial gap of £200m [$233M] in 2022/23, but that estimate has now risen. Members of the EA's Resources and People Committee received a briefing from the authority's director of finance, Seamus Wade, on 6 October. "He reported that, including earmarked pressures, the overall funding gap was estimated to be £301.387m," the minutes said. "The funding gap reflected approved inescapable pay and price pressures, approved inescapable demand pressures, and committed expenditure." For example, non-teaching staff in schools in Northern Ireland are set for a £1,925 pay rise following a UK-wide agreement with unions. Increased funding to support children with SEN also represents more than half of the additional budget pressures the EA is facing. The money that the EA spends on SEN is expected to be about £450m [$525M] in 2022-23. That includes about £208m [$243M] on children with SEN educated in mainstream schools, £157m [$183M] on special schools, £42m [$49M] on transport and £35m [$41M] on support like classroom assistants….


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