Clarke: Front Line Education Services Protected By Ruane

British Treasury’s withdrawal of £4 billion from the North’s block grant has resulted in a funding gap of £300 million for education over the Budget period. This of course presents significant challenges and Minister Ruane has made clear her determination to protect jobs and front line services throughout the education sector. “During the Budget process her department managed to increase what was originally proposed for education, and Sinn Féin will continue to bid for additional money in order to pay for essential services. [caption id="attachment_15078" align="alignleft" width="202" caption="Down Councillor Willie Clarke has welcomed the Education MInisters stance on front line services. "][/caption] “I also understand that the NI Executive has identified a further £1·6 billion of revenue, almost half of which remains unallocated. Sinn Féin is arguing for a portion of that £800 million be used to supplement the shortfall in the education budget and I hope the SDLP and Unionist parties will support our efforts on this matter. “During her tenure as Education Minister, Caitríona has identified a number of areas for protection that are designed to help some of the most vulnerable within our society. For example, priority has been given to special educational needs; extended schools; school counselling services; youth; and extra funding for early years. Added to this list is the extension of the eligibility for free school meals entitlement. “Clearly the Tory imposed budget cuts will have a major impact on our communities, particularly the vulnerable and less well off.  Caitríona has made clear that what is being imposed on people is not a good Budget for education. However, I am also confident she is determined to protect front line services and do everything possible to retain jobs within the education sector and her efforts should have cross party support.” Coogan Supports Call For EMA To Continue In The North Down District Sinn Féin Councillor Mickey Coogan believes the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for students aged between 16 and 18 must be retained in the North despite a decision to scrap the payments in England, Councillor Coogan was speaking after receiving queries from concerned pupils and parents from across South Down over fears that the weekly payments of up to £30 could be cut. He said, “Education at all levels should be free and Sinn Féin will resist any attempts to abolish the Education Maintenance Allowance. “Without these payments many young people would have found it unaffordable to remain in full-time education and would have been forced to seek work rather than completing their studies. “The payments are being scrapped in England but we are determined that they should be retained here. Thankfully, we are not at the mercy of Tory Ministers in regards to this matter because the Assembly has responsibility for the EMA and Sinn Féin has already raised this matter with the Minister responsible, Danny Kennedy, MLA. “We are seeking a commitment from the Minister that the allowance will be retained in the North and we will continue to lobby him to ensure that he rejects the Tory agenda and continues to make the EMA available to our young people.”]]>