23 July 2005

Parents voice anger against education cuts

Daily Ireland

By Ciarán Barnes

Parents of children whose schools have been affected by education cuts held a protest outside the offices of the Belfast and Education Library Board (BELB) yesterday.
The demonstration came after further criticism was levelled at the board for axing 28 youth worker jobs across the city.
The debt-ridden education and library board, which overspent by £5.7 million (€8.1 million) last year, has closed libraries and made many teachers, patrol crossing staff and classroom assistants redundant.
As part of a contingency plan to cope with its overspend the BELB announced in March that its budget for the forthcoming year would be slashed by £7 million (€10 million).
Around 50 people took part in the protest which coincided with the first meeting of the BELB’s new board.
Theresa Calvert, the mother of a pupil at St Mary’s Star of the Sea school, explained how the cuts affected her child’s school.
She said: “We are losing three teachers and as a consequence the special needs teacher is now being moved to fill one of the gaps.
“So now there will be no cover for the kids with special needs.”
Patricia Reid, the parent of a pupil at Vere Foster primary school, also took part in the demonstration.
She said: “Our school is losing three teachers, a supervisor and the school canteen is being closed.
“On top of this, classes are to be amalgamated.
“None of this is good for our children’s education and I am protesting to ensure a good education for my child”.
Sinn Féin education spokesman Michael Ferguson joined the parents on their protest.
His party refused to take their seats on the new BELB board following notification of the education cutbacks.
Mr Ferguson said: “Sinn Féin’s Board members will not be policing an inadequate budget set by the British government which is having an adverse impact on education services.
“We are calling upon the other elected and non-elected members of the board not to support the scheduled cuts and to oppose any attempt to introduce further cuts.
“The government needs to get real and provide a real budget that supports education and learning.”
Suicide prevention groups have also warned that the education cutbacks, particularly involving teachers and youth workers, could put children’s lives in danger.

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