General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

 


Ruane says new authority will raise standards

09-12-2008

09/12/2008  ::  Northern Ireland  ::  The Irish News

A major government review designed to cut bureaucracy, save money and raise standards in education has been agreed by the assembly.

More than 450 staff will lose their jobs through the creation of the Education and Skills Authority (ESA), which will replace the five education boards.

The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, which employs around 8,500 teachers, will also be relieved of its administrative duties and reduced to an advisory role.

A fund of £50 million has been set aside for the formation of the ESA, which minister Caitriona Ruane said would help create a more effective education system.

Of the jobs to go, it is understood approximately half of these cuts have already been made by staff leaving posts who have not then been replaced.

The ESA would inherit the assets and liabilities of the organisations that are being phased out, including any education board debts.

Ms Ruane told the assembly there was a need for better planning of the education estate and the delivery of the curriculum and better support services for schools and other education providers.

The existing bodies had become “obsolete”, she said, and the current fragmented system of education had manifestly failed to tackle underachievement and inequality.

“How can we justify five different approaches to education delivery, in everything from special education to fees for music tuition? How can we accept the complex variety of relationships between schools and support bodies?” she said.

“How can we go forward where there is no clear focus on planning the estate or on ensuring that every school is a good school?

How can staff work in a system where accountability is confused and opaque?”

It is expected that £20 million per year will be saved each year with this cash redirected from bureaucracy to “front-line services”.

Ms Ruane said this could cover the cost of building three new primary schools and one new post primary school or cover the cost of around 700 newly qualified teachers every year.

She said the ESA would not simply be a bigger education and library board but a “new and different type of organisation with a new and different role”.

“Schools and other education providers will be at the heart of the new arrangements,” she said.

“The ESA will be a single, decentralised organisation, fit for purpose, equipped to help, support and where necessary, challenge schools in their pursuit of improved standards and closing the attainment gap.”

Ms Ruane said the majority of ESA members would be councillors and while it would cover the whole of Northern Ireland, local units would address the needs of individual areas.

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