THE PRINCIPAL of a Co. Armagh primary school has revealed he is ‘begging’ parents to donate supplies, including toilet roll, to keep the school sustainable.
Graham Gault, principal of Maghaberry Primary School, told a Northern Ireland Affairs Committee meeting at Westminster that his school was performing well.
However he credited this to his depleted, under-pressure staff and hit out at a lack of funding for primary schools.
“My own primary school is sustainable, it actually performs very well in every one of the six sustainable school priorities, apart from its financial position,” he said.
“My school just isn’t financially sustainable.
“I’ve actually found myself in the humiliating position of begging my parents to support the wellbeing of their children by providing Pritt Stick, reading books, tissue and soap.
“I actually have parents – and this isn’t a joke – who are donating toilet roll to my school.
“It feels Victorian, it’s a disgrace.”
Dr Gault revealed he spends 95 per cent of his budget on staff yet is still understaffed, leaving him with ‘pennies’ to run the school and facing an end-of-year deficit of £130,000.
When told primary schools were performing well in Northern Ireland, he replied: “It’s not because of money. That’s because of the workforce I have.”
The meeting was held to investigate public service funding in Northern Ireland, with the budget set by Westminster in the absence of a devolved government.
Addressing the stalemate since the collapse of the power-sharing executive in January 2017, Dr Gault said Northern Ireland’s politicians were ‘playing pathetic games’.
“The level of political discourse that I would look at back home is something I wouldn’t accept in my playground,” said Dr Gault, who represents 92,000 pupils as secretary of a principals’ forum.
“I would say to our politicians, we have one chance for the children of my school.
“It’s not an industry where we can fix a problem in five years’ time; we have one goal.
“My politicians are playing pathetic games and I say to them, now is the time to be brave, to stand up and make some difficult decisions and step up for our children.”