Surplus school places are a massive waste of resources, says MLA

Wed, 18/03/2020 - 09:51 -- Editor

The revelation that there are over 60,000 surplus places at Northern Ireland’s schools represents a monumental waste – and money that could be spent productively and effectively in further and higher education and skills development, says the SDLP’s economy spokesperson Sinead McLaughlin.

She was responding to a reply from education minister Peter Weir to her question on the number of surplus places in Northern Ireland’s schools. 

He replied: “In the 2018-19 academic year, which is the most recent year for which data are available there were 41,606 available places in Primary schools, 19,362 in Post Primary schools and 194 in Nursery schools and units.” 

This is a total of 61,162 surplus places, which compares to the total number of pupils in Northern Ireland schools of 338,957. In other words, the number of surplus places is equivalent to 18% of actual pupils. 

Sinead McLaughlin commented: “These are astonishing figures and a monumental waste of scarce Northern Ireland resources. The Northern Ireland Executive needs to get on with reforming our public services to deliver for the needs of Northern Ireland and our people. We are in desperate need for investment in expanding our universities, investing in research and providing more vocational training through further education institutions. Funding for all these requirements are being held back because money is going through the leaky bucket of failing to reform our school system.”