O’Toole: Executive parties must come clean on integrated education funding cut

education matthew o'toole Integrated education

SDLP Leader of the Opposition Matthew O’Toole MLA has said that Executive parties must come clean around the removal of funding for integrated and shared schools.

A senior official confirmed today that the decision to remove funding from integrated education was discussed at the Executive rather than simply imposed from London as Executive parties have claimed.

Ten schools across the North were told that previously ring-fenced funding was no longer available for new school builds.

South Belfast MLA Mr O’Toole said:

“There are serious questions for the Executive to answer around the removal of £150m in funding to ten integrated schools. Today a revelation by a senior official confirmed that the Education Minister went to the Executive and asked that this money be diverted to another project and this was agreed. Executive parties have sought to deflect blame for the decision to cut funding by saying a UK Government decision to remove the ringfence was responsible. That is pathetically disingenuous when the removal of the ringfence did not force ministers to strip the money from integrated schools - they did that themselves

“I have asked multiple questions around when exactly the Executive and Ministers knew that this funding was being removed. Incredibly I received different answers from the Education and Finance Ministers about when they were informed, a discrepancy which hasn’t been adequately explained. The First and deputy First Ministers joined the Education Minister at a shared education campus in Limavady on the 21st February, just days before the news was announced that this funding had been pulled and I think they have a duty to reveal whether they already knew about these cuts at that stage.

“Since this news was announced there has been an attempt by the Executive to shirk the responsibility for this decision. I am calling for transparency from them on what exactly was agreed to, by who and when. The Alliance Party in particular have been outspoken about their support for integrated education and if they approved diverting this funding then the public have the right to know. This decision by the Executive has led to ten schools' plans for new buildings being thrown into uncertainty and the impact from that will be felt in these communities for some time. The least they deserve from the Executive parties is honesty around how this happened and the SDLP Opposition is determined to get it for them.”

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