£1.5m annual bill for local Irish schools

Irish medium schools are growing in popularity
Irish medium schools are growing in popularity

With education services and a local primary school facing the axe because of funding pressures, a total of £1.5million was spent last year on Irish medium schools in Mid Ulster.

Of the five Irish speaking schools in the local area, only one is above the minimum enrolment number, according the latest official figures.

The local district has the highest annual bill outside of Belfast and Derry. The total cost for all of Northern Ireland stands at £13million.

Across Northern Ireland, there are 952 empty seats in the 28 Irish speaking primary schools. The number of pupils being taught through Irish has almost doubled in the last 10 years to just under 5,000 - 830 are in secondary education.

The figures were released this week at the Northern Ireland Assembly by the Department of Education.

Belfast has the highest annual spend at £5.4m, and Fermanagh and Omagh the lowest at £747,693.

The department has defended its support of the schools in spite of their low enrolments.

“The Sustainable School Policy outlines six criteria which provide the framework for assessing the sustainability of schools.

“The criteria are education experience, stable enrolment trends, sound financial position, strong leadership and management, accessibility and strong links with the community. It should therefore be noted that enrolment numbers is one of six criteria that must be examined.”