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O'Dowd makes tens of millions available to education

Education will benefit from further funding allocations over the next two years following a review of the education budget.
Friday, 1 March 2013

The Aggregated Schools Budget, Schools Maintenance, the Learning to Learn strategy and Youth are among areas which will benefit from further funding, which is being reallocated from resources previously set aside for severance.

Commenting on the allocations the Education Minister said: “I have always made it clear that I would continue to review my budget to ensure that resources are targeted to areas where the most benefit could be achieved. I had previously provided substantial resources in each of the next two years to fund severance costs across the education sector. However, in light of the very challenging financial environment that schools continue to face and the significant number of frontline and administrative staff that have been released I have decided to re-visit my original decision on the planned allocations for severance. On balance, I have now chosen to provide £10million in each of the next two years for severance, which allows me to proactively redeploy funding of £41million in 2013-14 and £51million in 2014-15 to other key priority areas. In addition, other budget flexibility has been identified allowing for the total reallocation of £48million and £59million in the next two years.”

Turning to the detail the Minister commented: “Schools were facing a £10million reduction in funding next year compared to this year. Given the savings that have already been delivered from schools this clearly was going to have a significant impact on the education of our children. To mitigate the impact of this, I have increased the Aggregated Schools Budget by £10million in 2013-14, so that funding for schools next year is in line with that for this year.

“Our children also need an environment that is conducive to learning and so I have provided a further ring fenced £10million next year to help address the maintenance backlog in schools. This brings the overall level of maintenance funding in 2013-14 to some £37million. This has already been notified to the Boards to allow for early planning in this regard. I am confident that this funding will also be welcomed by our troubled construction industry.

“Last year I announced that I was providing an additional £2million in each of the next two years to provide support within disadvantaged areas by increasing access to mainstream youth services and outreach/detached youth work. As this funding is having a significant impact on the lives of the young people involved, I have decided to double my earlier allocation by investing a further £2million in each of the next two years to further support this important work.

“I have been running a campaign to encourage families and the community to become involved in education called the ‘Education Works’. Further to that campaign, in a bid to increase family and community involvement in education, I am announcing a £2million fund in each of the next two years for community education initiatives. The funding will be awarded to projects that can identify schemes which meet the priorities of my Department and the Programme for Government targets set by the Executive for educational improvement.”

On funding for the Education Maintenance Allowance scheme the Minister said: “It is important that we encourage those from lower income backgrounds to remain in post-compulsory education at school and at college. Following a joint review carried out by my Department and the Department for Employment and Learning, the Executive recently agreed revised proposals for the continued operation of the Education Maintenance Allowance scheme. One of these proposals is to provide a £200 annual bonus to students and I have agreed to provide the necessary funding.”

Looking ahead the Minister commented on the need to set aside provision for future initiatives: “It is clear that the phased introduction of Universal Credit from April 2014 may have an impact on a number of funding streams provided by the Department and in particular those eligible for Free Schools Meals. Work continues to be undertaken to assess the potential impacts but in the interim I am setting aside £4million in 2014-15 to contribute to any additional costs that may arise.

“The Independent Review of the Common Funding Scheme was published on 21 January 2013. I am currently considering the findings of the report and will comment in due course but I consider it prudent to set aside now £20million in 2014-15 to help deliver the future changes to the Scheme.

“In addition, and in recognition of the importance that early years learning can have for the future development of our children, I am providing a total of £6million over the next two years to deliver on commitments arising from the Learning to Learn strategy.”

Mr O’Dowd also announced funding to allow the Education and Library Boards to meet their commitments on the Carbon Reduction Scheme; to provide for preliminary work to be taken forward on capital schemes; to meet rising costs in the ‘3 for 2’ scheme provided by Translink; to fund literacy projects; to take forward new initiatives in pursuit of the Programme for Government commitments; and to provide for the continuation of Special Education Needs early years pilot schemes. Funding has also been set aside to address any unforeseen pressures that may arise.

The Minister has also made recent announcements on the continuation of nurture provision in ten primary schools and on funding for the delivery of the Entitlement Framework and he is providing the necessary resources to deliver on these two previously announced commitments.

The Minister concluded: “The financial outlook for the education sector continues to be challenging but I remain fully committed to ensuring maximum benefit is delivered from those resources allocated to me. The reallocation of funding that I am announcing today has come about as a result of my ongoing, proactive review of my budgets. As we go forward, I fully intend to review and revise allocations as and when necessary.”

Notes to editors:

1. The Department of Education has launched a new ‘Education Works’ advertising campaign. The campaign encourages families to play, talk, read and count with their child and to ‘Get Involved Because Education Works’. Watch out for the ads on television, radio and outdoor locations. The campaign highlights the vital role families can play in helping children do well at school and improve their life chances. Visit nidirect for more information.

Watch the TV ad on the Department’s YouTube channel.

2. See photos from the Department of Education in our collection.

3. Media enquiries to the Department of Education’s Communications Team on Tel: 028 9127 9207. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699715440 and your call will be returned.