Education chiefs are trying to work out how to save millions of pounds after this week’s budget.
THE Department of Education and Children’s budget for 2014/15 is £90.2 million – a cut of £4.1 million from the £94.3 million budget set for 2013/14.
The transfer of caretaking, cleaning and catering budgets to other departments and the transfer into the DEC of Manx Sport and Recreation, regional swimming pools and the Isle of Man Arts Council from the soon to be disbanded Department of Community, Culture and Leisure will result in a net reduction to the DEC’s budget of £1.8 million.
The department says the remaining £2.3 million will largely be saved as a result of the introduction of the universal contribution to higher education tuition fees, agreed by Tynwald last year.
The universal contribution will, by the financial year 2015/16, achieve a saving of £3.8 million a year.
The department always faces a conflict between the financial year, running from April to March, and the academic year, running from September to July.
Financial commitments in place in September in terms of staffing and services must extend until the end of the academic year.
That means that economies resulting from the Budget in February cannot be introduced until September, leaving the DEC less time than other Departments to make savings.
A department spokesman said: ‘While the DEC continually reviews all areas of its service to make sure that resources are being targeted effectively, it has been proactive in meeting the cost-saving targets it has faced in recent years. Since 2010, it has reduced expenditure by over £3 million and has absorbed cost increases amounting to over £7 million.
‘These reductions have led to significant decreases both in the DEC’s central staff and in its workforce in schools.
‘The reductions have led to increased class sizes, the removal of the teaching of primary French and the transfer of services such as pre-schools and the family and mobile libraries to the private and voluntary sectors.
‘In spite of these changes to service, the DEC continues to provide high quality educational services and recently received praise from the President of the National Union of Teachers, Beth Davies.’
The department says it has focused on protecting the frontline services of primary and secondary schools and the college, with each of these areas receiving slight increases in their revenue budgets.
This has been funded by savings initiated both in previous and the current years, including the amalgamation of infant and junior schools and restructuring of support and youth services.
The DEC has been able to secure funding in respect of its on-island further and higher education including the provision of vocational education for 14- to 16-year-olds and the development of its precision engineering offering at the Isle of Man College of Further and Higher Education.
A spokesman added: ‘The DEC is delighted to be taking on responsibility for sport and arts and is working to integrate these areas into DEC, identifying synergies that should lead to greater efficiencies.
‘The department supports the principles behind the creation of further shared services and is actively working with other Departments to facilitate a smooth transition to support the government’s aim of ensuring we operate as efficiently as possible.
‘The department is moving forward with a number of infrastructure projects including the post 16 and dining extension at Ballakermeen and the Isle of Man College of Further and Higher Education’s new engineering centre.
‘The department is also progressing with the design of a kitchen and dining scheme at Queen Elizabeth II High School, the college’s new construction crafts facilities and the new Henry Bloom Noble Primary School on Westmoreland Road, Douglas.’