The Pathway Fund was introduced in April 2016 and focuses on the provision of early years education and learning services for children aged 0-4 years. The Fund aims to improve the development of children who are at risk of not reaching their full potential within the school system, and can also be used to enhance the sustainability of the Early Years’ Sector.
Ms Egan expressed her deep regret at the potential cuts and has called for an extension to this vital funding.
“The Pathway Fund has facilitated fantastic work directly supporting our most vulnerable children in the early years of their lives. Failing to extend the funding for this programme will punish those children who are already most in need of support, a situation which is incredibly concerning and totally unconscionable,” she said.
“4,787 children in the most disadvantaged areas in Northern Ireland were supported by the Pathway Fund in the 2021/2022 financial year, including 1,647 children with special educational needs. Supporting these children early in their lives directly contributes to improved outcomes for them down the line in later life.
“The Pathway Fund also supports the sustainability of the Early Years’ Sector, which is vitally needed considering Northern Ireland is still without a Childcare Strategy.
“I have written to the Permanent Secretary of Education, Dr Mark Browne, to emphasise the importance of the Pathway Fund and to request that funding is extended. However, these are not decisions that Permanent Secretaries should be having to take. A locally elected Executive and Education Minister should be in place to agree a multi-year budget that prioritises our children and young people.
“The continued boycott of the institutions by one party is, quite frankly, unforgivable. Without functioning institutions, our children’s education lies at the mercy of brutal Tory cuts.
“The DUP must be held accountable for their inaction and inability to put the interests of our children above party politics, and join the rest of us in a restored Executive.”