Budget breakdown for all Northern Ireland schools

View School budget allocations in a full screen map

By Kathryn Torney

A FULL breakdown of the budget allocated to all Northern Ireland schools for this incoming academic year can be revealed by The Detail today.

Education Minister John O’Dowd has defended his department’s new funding scheme for schools – which has resulted in a reduced budget for over 300 schools (27%) compared to last year, alongside a specific increase in financial support for the only Irish-medium post-primary school.

Questions have already been asked about the difference in per pupil funding levels between the nursery/primary and post-primary sectors. The average amount allocated per pupil attending nursery and primary schools is almost £1,000 less than for post-primary pupils.

The Minister has stressed that his reform is based on the principle of tackling social disadvantage “wherever it is”.

“The changes are not about favouring one sector over another,” he told The Detail.

Pupils entitled to free meals have consistently under-performed in school examinations in Northern Ireland compared to their non-free meals peers. Protestant boys entitled to free meals are known to significantly under-achieve when it comes to school exams.

The Minister hopes that redirecting school funding could improve the academic outcomes for all deprived pupils.

New data released to The Detail shows a higher concentration of deprivation within Catholic maintained schools compared to schools in the controlled sector.

Mr O’Dowd has also awarded transitional funds to schools which would have received less money for 2014/15 under the new plans compared to the old funding formula. However, crucially, these additional payments are guaranteed for one year only to allow schools to make plans for 2015/16.

Mr O’Dowd said that the “losses” in budget at these schools are “relatively small” – the transitional payments range from £2 to £11,253 – and should not have a major impact for schools.

The Detail has mapped the confirmed financial allocation for the 2014/15 school year for all nursery, primary and post-primary schools – 1,131 schools in total – using detailed data we requested from the Department of Education.

Click on the map above to see the budget information on your local schools.

The figures we have received include what each school received for the current academic year and what they would have received for 2014/15 if the old funding formula had remained in place.


Education Minister John O’Dowd faced strong criticism last year when he announced plans to change the method of school funding to direct more funding towards pupils from socially deprived backgrounds.

The new funding proposals were brought forward by an independent panel of experts tasked by the Minister to examine how funds are allocated to schools.

The Detail reported in October that over 62% of schools would lose money from their annual budgets if the original proposals were given the go ahead.

Budgets for 720 schools – in both the primary and post-primary sectors – would have been cut while 424 schools would have benefitted from an increase.

To see this report, click here.

The strength of feeling about the proposals was reflected in the fact that over 15,000 responses were received during the Department of Education’s consultation process.

Taking account of the consultation, Mr O’Dowd has amended his plans and also allocated additional funding to some schools for the incoming year. This means that no school will receive less money this year than under the old funding formula.

The Minister said: “I have amended a number of my proposals to reflect some of the concerns raised while at the same time maintaining the key principle behind the changes of ensuring we target increased resources at social deprivation.”

To see the full response from the Minister to our questions, click here.

New free school meal bands have been created by the Department of Education. These relate to the percentage of pupils in each school who are entitled to free meals. A higher FSME percentage means that school’s population is considered to be more socially deprived.

The nursery school FSME bands are: Band 1 (up to 36.19% of pupils entitled to free meals, Band 2 (between 36.19% and 51.85%) and Band 3 (over 51.85%).

For primary schools: Band 1 (up to 31.42%), Band 2 (between 31.42% and 43.48%) and Band 3 (over 43.48%).

For post-primary schools: Band 1 (up to 18.51%), Band 2 (between 18.51% and 29.38%) and Band 3 (over 29.38%).

School in FSME band 0 have no pupils on their rolls entitled to free school meals.

Our table below gives a breakdown of the FSME bands for each school sector.

Number of schools in each FSME band - using data provided by the Department of Education. Band 3 = most deprived.

Number of schools in each FSME band - using data provided by the Department of Education. Band 3 = most deprived.


For our analysis, we looked at per pupil funding at school level, which schools will receive the most money and also how the funding breaks down for each sector.

Our key findings include:

  • 309 schools’ budgets for 2014/15 are less than what they received for the 2013/14 school year – 259 of these schools are in the nursery/primary sector. Some of this may be due to changes in pupil numbers.
  • 385 schools – all within the nursery/primary sector and in FSME bands 0 or 1 – are going to receive exactly the same as they would have received under the old funding regime – taking updated school census data into consideration.
  • There is a stark difference in deprivation levels within Catholic maintained and controlled schools. In the post-primary sector 54% of Catholic maintained schools are in FSME Band 3, compared to 17% of controlled schools. And in the nursery/primary sector, 23% of Catholic maintained schools are in Band 3, compared to 18% of controlled schools. Fifty percent of controlled post-primaries are in Band 1 – compared to 13% of Catholic maintained post-primaries.
  • The school allocated the largest budget for 2014/15 is Methodist College in Belfast – £7,651,226. This is £4,781 higher than the school’s financial allocation for the 2013/14 year. Methody has 2,057 pupils – this is the largest enrolment of any school.
  • We calculated funding per pupil in each school by dividing each school’s funding allocation by the number of pupils. This ranged from £12,372 for each of the eight pupils who attend St Mary’s Primary on Rathlin Island (the smallest school of all in terms of pupil numbers) to £2,437 per pupil attending Strandtown Primary in east Belfast (the largest primary with 910 pupils).
  • The average amount of funding per pupil is £3,419 for the nursery/primary sector – compared to an average of £4,372 for each pupil attending post-primary schools.
  • Catholic maintained schools are the management type in both school sectors with the highest average per pupil funding for 2014/15 (aside from a single ’other maintained Irish-medium school). In the nursery/primary sector – an average of £3,493 has been allocated per pupil in Catholic maintained schools – compared to £3,315 in controlled schools. In post-primaries, each pupil in the Catholic maintained schools is funded an average of £4,535, compared to £4,277 in controlled schools.

Free school meal entitlement (FSME) is used as a proxy measure of the levels of deprivation experienced by a school’s population. There is known to be a link between FSME and exam performance.

In particular, the poor results obtained by Protestant boys in Northern Ireland entitled to free school meals has been well documented.

This academic year, for the first time, examination result data on FSME pupils was collected by the department to allow for analysis of the percentage of these pupils achieving a range of key benchmarks.

This showed that in last summer’s GCSE exams almost 61% of all year 12 pupils achieved five or more GCSEs at grades A*-C last year, including English and maths. However, only 33.9% of pupils entitled to free meals achieved this standard, compared with 66.7% of non-free meals pupils.

Over 65% of Year 14 pupils achieved three or more A-Levels (including equivalents) at grades A*-C – compared to only 50.9% of A-level pupils entitled to free meals.

The school with the highest percentage of pupils entitled to free meals in the 2012/13 school year was St Brigid’s College in Derry (64.3%). The lowest was Campbell College grammar in Belfast at 1%.

At Campbell, almost 84% of year 12 pupils achieved five or more GCSEs A*-C including English and Maths – compared to 21% at St Brigid’s.

To see our full report on every school’s latest examination performance, click here.


When John O’Dowd announced last week his final decision on the school budgets for 2014/15, he confirmed that the amount of money directly delegated to schools is to rise by £26.5m over the current financial year.

The Minister said: “I promised to listen to the views expressed during the consultation and that is exactly what I have done.

“In response, I have amended a number of my proposals to reflect some of the concerns raised while at the same time maintaining the key principle behind the changes of ensuring we target increased resources at social deprivation.

“I have also delivered on my commitment that no school will receive less money this year than it would have if I hadn’t made any changes.”

Among the changes to the Common Funding Formula, the Minister created two discrete funding streams within the formula – one for primary and nursery and one for post-primary.

The Minister has warned that he does not yet know what resources he will have at his disposal in future years.

So many schools will need to prepare and plan ahead for the likely outcome that the transitional payments are just a temporary measure.

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