EDUCATION chiefs are remaining tight-lipped about their on-going budget talks.
Tim Crookall MHK, who has been Education and Children Minister since July, said that discussions were ‘just starting to rack up’ with Christmas approaching.
But he said it was ‘too early’ to go into detail about the discussions, saying: ‘We are looking at everything we do, how we do it and why we do it. That will continue.’
He added: ‘It’s going to be a tough challenge, like every department has. There is a figure across government and within the department and we have to work within that budget.’
Director of education Martin Barrow said the department was working ‘very closely’ with Treasury to ensure there was the ‘least impact on what we provide, particularly front line services in schools’.
For 2012-13, the department had a budget of £95.85 million, nearly half of which is being spent directly on primary and secondary education.
Education chiefs won’t know the size of their budget for next year until closer to the main Budget in February.
When asked what his priorities were, Mr Crookall said: ‘Keeping the first-class standard that we have got.
‘We are going to have to work very hard over the next few years to keep the standard we have got.’
He added: ‘We are still recognised as having a first-class education system from early years to school leaving age and we have got to preserve that.’
Mr Barrow said since Mr Crookall became Minister, the DEC was also building up its relationship with the Department of Economic Development.
Mr Crookall said that he was ‘settling in well’ into the DEC, with support from Mr Barrow and chief executive Stuart Dobson and other department staff.
Along with the department’s political members, MLCs Juan Turner and Tony Wild, he is planning to visit all of the island’s schools ‘as soon as possible’.
DEC cuts were announced in February this year as a result of the need to make huge savings.
They included stopping providing a number of services such as pre-school education and the Family and Mobile libraries provision.
Bride Infants’ School, with only a handful of pupils, was closed, and the Primary Modern Language Service was discontinued.
The department also stopped grants to some charities and organisations, and increased the level of contributions for some higher education students.