Cashless schools project latest to fall victim to NI education cuts – BBC

A system to allow all schools to move to cashless payments is the latest casualty of cuts to the education budget.
The Education Authority (EA) said that "financial pressures" meant the online payment project was being postponed.
In a message to schools, it apologised for the "huge disappointment" the news would cause.
A school principal told BBC News NI he could "not believe it is 2023 and this has not been sorted".
The Education Authority is required to find about £200m of savings this year.
The Department of Education (DE) has also cut a number of schemes to save money, while other long-running ones like the pre-school Pathway Fund and Sure Start have not had funding confirmed beyond the end of June.
That comes after the money for education fell in 2023-24 under the budget delivered by the secretary of state in the absence of Stormont.
Some schools have paid for their own online payments systems to allow things like pupils to pay for school meals or parents to pay money for activities.
Others still have to rely solely on collecting cash from pupils or parents.
The Education Authority was developing a system all schools could use, meaning schools no longer had to pay for an online payment service from their own budgets.
But in a message to principals, it said that it and the Department of Education had "taken the difficult decision to postpone the online payment project due to financial pressures facing the Northern Ireland education sector at this time".
"We recognise this will be a huge disappointment for schools who were looking forward to the implementation of the new solution," it continued.
The communication also recommended that if schools already had a system for online payments they should renew their contracts for that for a year.
The principal of St Ronan's Primary in Newry, Kevin Donaghy, told BBC News NI that as many parents of pupils shopped and banked online they wanted to pay schools online too.
"Schools will either have to continue to pay for this themselves from decimated budgets or continue to collect cash," he said.
"I can't believe it is 2023 and this has not been sorted."
The roll-out of the system to schools was planned to begin this year, but the Education Authority said the timescale was now dependent on funding becoming available.
The online payment project for schools is just one facet of a £750m project to transform information technology in education in Northern Ireland.
In their message to heads, the Education Authority said that the wider Education Information Solutions (EdIS) scheme was continuing.
But members of the EA board have previously been told that the organisation's need to make savings was "impacting significantly" on the EdIS project.
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