Education UK Northern Ireland Funding Shortfall to address under Achievement In 2023/24, analysis by AcademicExpert.UK, get a case study done on the topic.
As suggested by the Department of Education (DE) progress report on the Fair Start report and action plan, will not be available. The Fair Start report, a comprehensive strategy spanning five years, was designed to combat educational underachievement in Northern Ireland. However, the allocated budget for the strategy in 2023/24 is only £2.5m, significantly falling short of the recommended £21m.
The department attributes this reduction in funding to its “extremely challenging financial position,” and it anticipates that this limited budget will inevitably impede the scale and pace of change that can be achieved in tackling underachievement.
published in 2021, was commissioned by DE and led by Professor Noel Purdy from Stranmillis University College. It delved into the connections between persistent educational underachievement and socio-economic background. The report proposed an expenditure of approximately £180m over five years on various measures to address underachievement. These measures included increased investment in early years education and mandatory pre-school attendance for at least four and a half hours a day for all children.
The Fair Start report also focused on assisting boys, who were found to encounter challenges like alienation from school, lack of role models, and a sense of not belonging. Nevertheless, due to budget cuts, some initiatives aimed at supporting children from disadvantaged areas had to be discontinued.
A recent independent report cautioned that these “short-sighted cuts” could lead to long-term issues for children, leading to increased demand for public services in the future.
In the DE’s latest progress report on Fair Start, it stated that the recommendations would face a significantly lower level of funding in 2023-24. While the expert panel had suggested £21m for year two of the action plan, only £2.5m has been allocated. For example, the panel had recommended increased funding for nurture units in primary schools, which are special classes providing specialist teaching and support to small groups of pupils. However, the department recently reduced the funding schools receive to run these classes.
The progress report states that the implementation of a plan to enhance mentoring and counseling services in schools and youth clubs cannot move forward. Additionally, providing more expert guidance to pre-schools for supporting children with Special Education Needs (SEN) is among the other actions that will be limited.
Nonetheless, the Department of Education highlights that some of the recommendations from the Fair Start report can still be pursued in 2023-24.
SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan emphasized that addressing educational underachievement would be unattainable without substantial funding. He further expressed concern that the financial challenges faced at Stormont were having a disproportionate impact on children and young people.
On the other hand, Alliance MLA Connie Egan asserted that a lack of political leadership was resulting in vulnerable children and young people bearing the brunt of the consequences.
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