top of page

(UK) NI: Special ed deficit $79M in 'unprecedented funding challenges, cuts'

Nov 10, 2023, BBC News: Special educational needs funding has £65m [$79M] shortfall – report
The amount of funding for special educational needs (SEN) in Northern Ireland is £65m [$79M] - or about 14% - less than what is needed this year.
That is according to the Department of Education's impact report on its 2023-24 budget.
The department said that overall it was facing "unprecedented funding challenges and cuts".
It said it needed more than £2.9bn [$3.5B] to run the education system in 2023-24 but had received under £2.6bn [$3.2B].
The education budget was cut by about £70m [$86M] compared to 2022-23, but given the rate of inflation the real terms reduction is much larger.

The department also said that without any additional funding it was likely to overspend its budget.

Overall, Stormont departments are on course for an overspend of £450m [$550M] this year, according to the senior official in the Department of Finance.

However, that figure is based on the assumption that there are no pay rises across public services, including in education.

Teachers in Northern Ireland have not had a pay increase for nearly three years.

A number of unions representing non-teaching staff in education are also taking strike action over pay reform on Thursday, 16 November.

Department facing 'unpalatable decisions'

The Department of Education has already scrapped a number of schemes including counselling for primary school pupils and so-called "holiday hunger" grants to save money.

The overall budget to schools for yearly running costs, including staff pay, has also fallen.

Separately, the Education Authority (EA) estimates that the total budget deficits faced by schools will rise to a total of about £160m [$195M] in 2023-24.

The department's impact assessment said that many of the cuts would have "major negative impacts" especially on pupils with special educational needs, newcomer pupils, young carers and children in Irish-medium education.

The document said that department was "facing the most unpalatable decisions to seek to manage its spending".

It has also stopped funding a range of education organisations like Young Enterprise Northern Ireland, the Sentinus charity which promotes science in schools and the Northern Ireland centre for language teaching.

It also ended its funding for free books for babies among other cuts.

Cuts to special education needs spending

While the impact assessment points out that "the majority of SEN expenditure is statutory and will not therefore be subject to any cuts," it also said it expected to spend £65m less on SEN this year than is needed.

The funding spent on SEN includes things like specialist therapies for pupils, classroom assistants, transport and the running costs for special schools.

According to its impact assessment, the Department of Education estimates it needs to spend £506m [$618M] on SEN, but has only £440m [$538M] in funding for it in 2023-24.

Unlike other schools in Northern Ireland, special schools have still not been provided with an annual budget for their running costs for 2023-24.

The funding for dedicated school staff to support pupils with SEN has also been cut in half. Some parents have also said that they meet "brick wall after brick wall" when seeking support for their children.

A number of respondents to the department's budget consultation raised concerns about reductions in support for children with SEN.

Other organisations expressed a range of concerns about cuts to early years provision, mental health support for pupils and the fact that the money "received by schools for each pupil has not risen in line with inflation, despite a dramatic increase in operational cost".

"The short-term savings which are made by cutting programmes to tackle educational disadvantage are likely to be dwarfed by the costs which will be generated in the long run," one respondent said.

1 Comment

Very many Christian homeschool textbooks (state approved textbooks) teach globe earth/spinning ball earth, a giant oversized sun, patriotism and other profitable lies - just as much as secular schools do. F.L. has nothing against policing what homeschool students are taught and ensuring they don't question what textbooks tell them, the state of F.L./Gardiner Scholarship suddenly took away our TPT (teachers pay teachers website) voucher without notice or telling us why. We refused to utilize, let alone purchase anything from, their state-approved "Scholar Shop" of government-approved F.L. curriculum materials, teaching most/all the same lies as all F.L. schools teach. Those still worshipping R/D and seeing our state as a "patriotic utopia" need to wake up.

bottom of page