independent

Monday 21 April 2014

More funds urged for poorer pupils

Sir Robert Salisbury said steps must also be taken to improve the financial discipline of schools which overspend their general budgets

The amount of funding for disadvantaged school pupils in Northern Ireland should be increased, an expert report said.

Extra money must be directly targeted at poorer students such as those entitled to free school meals, travellers, Roma or children in care to combat educational underachievement, the review said.

Steps must also be taken to improve the financial discipline of schools which overspend their general budgets, it added.

Sir Robert Salisbury published his independent review of the funding scheme which governs schools.

His report said: "Targeting resources at those pupils who need them most, combined with an effective support and monitoring system, will assist those pupils in overcoming the significant barriers they face."

The 142-page report was compiled by a panel including chairman Sir Robert, Eemer Eivers and Evan Bates. Sir Robert was a professor in the School of Education at the University of Nottingham and chaired a literacy and numeracy taskforce in Northern Ireland.

The report called for disciplined budgeting from schools and highlighted serious shortcomings in the system of delegating responsibility for budgets to schools with very little accountability, allowing some (196 in 2011) to overspend with no fear of losing spending powers.

Proposed changes also considerably reduced the additional financial support for small schools, removing it completely at post-primary level.

The panel made 30 recommendations including increasing funding for socio-economic deprivation weighted towards schools with significant concentrations of disadvantage to reflect the negative effect of such concentrations.

The report said there was a long tail of educational underachievement displaying strong links with social disadvantage. It acknowledged efforts made by the department to target underachieving groups.

Press Association

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