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kevin
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All children have the right to a good education and should not be forced to undergo the stress involved in sitting unregulated tests.<

That was the message from the Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, as she responded to the Association for Quality Education (AQE) and Post Primary Transfer Association’s (PPTA) joint statement on their failure to agree a common set of tests for their process of selection/rejection.

The Minister said: “My Department’s Transfer 2010 guidance sets the way forward for all schools to enable children to transfer from primary to post-primary school without the need for stressful, unnecessary and unsound testing. This guidance remains the position of my Department and should continue to be used in 2011 as the basis for school admissions.

“The AQE and PPTA have met on three occasions and on three occasions they have failed to find a consensus on their way forward. This reflects the deep divisions amongst this group of schools and the fact that a significant number of them have decided they can no longer justify picking and choosing the children they want to teach. Surely, it is now time for all schools to join with the rest of the education system and ensure that every child can access a good education without having their future held to ransom on the results of a test.

“No child should to be put through the pressure of multiple tests by the AQE and PPTA. Rather than focussing on the narrow procedure of admitting children into post-primary school, we must instead commit ourselves to meeting the real challenges in education; raising standards; tackling underachievement and reforming our education system – that is what will make the real difference to our children’s futures and that is what will ensure equality is given to all.”

Notes to editors:

  1. Media enquiries to the Department of Education Press Office Tel: 028 9127 9207. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/news/news-de/news-de-210410-a-good-edu...<

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kevin
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Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has today announced budget allocations for education services for 2010-11.<

The Minister confirmed that current funding for education was up by 1.9% to just over £1.9billion but said that it had been a difficult budget involving difficult decisions.

The Minister said: “We face a challenging year for education. While there is an overall increase of 1.9% on the education budget and I have been able to provide more money directly to schools, there are also areas where I have not had that option.

“The overall budget agreed by the Executive requires substantial savings of £74million on my original plans for this year. This is on top of £13million savings previously withdrawn in anticipation of ESA. In determining allocation for 2010-11, I have focused on equality, reducing bureaucracy and ensuring as much funding as possible for the classroom.

“Throughout, my priority has been to protect frontline services. When faced with the alternatives of cutting teachers or youth workers and cutting back office functions, there is only one sensible choice.

“I am pleased to announce that I have increased the budgets which go directly to schools by 1.9%, protecting core front-line educational services in the classroom."

This represents a modest increase from last year, but that must be considered in the context of the need for all departments to deliver substantial savings compared to previously planned budgets. In the case of education, these reductions were £51.7million in current expenditure and £22million in capital.

The Minister said that she remained committed to increasing the relative levels of funding for primary schools. The Minister said: "I have made clear my commitment to ensuring additional funding for primary schools and I am able to announce that the budget provides for an additional £90 per primary pupil which represents a 3.1% increase in funding per primary school pupil compared to last year."

The Minister indicated that resources for Education and Library Boards will be down on last year. She said: “I will look to the Boards to ensure as far as possible that these reductions do not impact on core services for children and youth.”

Streamlining Education Administration<

The Minister said: “To protect school budgets we need to reduce bureaucracy in administration. The changes required to reduce red tape, raise educational standards and improve services are long overdue and we can no longer wait until the new Education and Skills Authority (ESA) is up and running.

“Establishment of the ESA remains an objective of the Executive and I am working to deliver that objective. I welcome that the budget agreed by the Executive includes £6.4million of the additional £8million I need to help deliver the ESA.

“In the meantime, the Convergence Process I have set in hand must begin to deliver the savings which had previously been taken out of the education budgets, some £13million this year. In order to protect front-line services now and in the future, it is essential that bureaucracy is radically streamlined. The case for ESA is clear and irrefutable."

Resources have also been made available for the introduction of the Holding Body for controlled schools and new sectoral support bodies which will be required once the Education and Skills Authority is up and running.

Preparatory Departments<

The Minister also outlined her decision on the funding for preparatory schools in the future following the recent consultation process on the draft Equality Impact Assessment.

The Minister said: "My position on this issue has always been that funding of Preparatory Departments is an inequitable use of public money. I have given conscientious consideration to the responses to the EQIA and recognise that ending the funding completely may cause difficulties for parents and possible disruption in some schools. I have therefore decided to continue funding Preparatory Departments, but at a reduced level. The current level of funding will be reduced by one third from September 2010."

Extension of Free School Meal Criteria<

The Minister emphasised that a priority for her in tackling underachievement was targeting social need and disadvantage. The Minister said: “In particular we need to recognise the impact of the economic downturn and the consequences this could have for many children’s life chances.”

In the budget last year the Minister announced a new grant towards primary school uniforms. In continuation of her support for lower income families the Minister has set aside money to extend eligibility for free school meals from the new school year. Once fully implemented around 20,000 children will benefit.

Speaking about this the Minister said: “I am delighted that I have been able to make an additional £3million available to extend the free school meals criteria. Families with children in full-time nursery places and/or primary schools in receipt of working tax credit and with a taxable income below £16,190 (in 2010-11), will now be able to ensure that their children receive a nutritious meal in the middle of the day. This will be introduced on a phased basis over two years. Eligibility for free school meals also entitles families to other benefits, including school uniform grants and I would encourage all lower income families to claim their full entitlement.”

Premature Retirements of Teachers<

Up to £9million is being made available to assist employers with the costs associated with teachers’ premature retirement compensation.

The Minister said: “I have spoken to teachers and principals across the system and I have listened to their concerns about the new arrangements for premature retirement compensation. I want to ensure that employing authorities have sufficient flexibility in meeting teacher redundancy costs in 2010-11. This is why I have set aside up to £9million for this purpose.”

Special Education<

On Special Education the Minister said: “A key issue for me is to ensure that all children have equal access to quality education to give them the best opportunity to achieve their full potential. An important focus of the education budget is to ensure that the requirements of those with special education needs are addressed.”

In acknowledging the significant investment of around £200million on special education needs every year the Minister said: “I want to ensure that this funding is being used in the best possible way to address the needs of our children. It is for that reason that I remain committed to taking forward the Review of Special Education Needs.”

She went on to say: “Given the delays in reaching the formal public consultation stage and the need for careful analysis of the consultation responses, the immediate focus will be on the provision of additional funding of £25million for capacity building. This funding will be spread over the three year period 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13, which will allow for a more manageable and phased approach to the programme.”

Youth Services/Early Years<

On Youth Services the Minister said: “I am able to announce that in line with the decision I have taken on protecting the school sector, I am making available £27.6million. This is virtually the full amount planned at the time of the last budget. The modest reduction will be covered by an improvement in management delivered by the Convergence Delivery Plan in advance of ESA to ensure that the savings are delivered. I remain committed to the youth service and its role as an important part of the education system, one which helps all young people, in particular those who feel socially excluded, to develop their potential to the full.”

On Early Years Minister said: “I am currently considering a draft Early Years 0-6 Strategy. While I have still to decide on the precise detail, I recognise that investing in early years provision is key to ensuring that our children have the best possible start in life. I have therefore decided to set aside £1.5million to take forward the development of this important area and will announce the precise details when I am in a position to do so.”

Challenges<

The Minister acknowledged that there were a range of areas where she was not able to invest as much as she would like. The Minister said: “I have had to make difficult decisions. Investment in the Entitlement Framework and School Improvement will be less than originally planned but as these remain priorities, I have made provision to ensure the current significant level of investment in these areas is continued. I have also had to rein back investment in C2K.”

The Minister also indicated that there would be a reduced level of funding available for community relations work.

In relation to this the Minister said: “I have had to balance a range of other priorities against the need to achieve efficiencies but have ensured that funding continues to be available to support this work.

“Funding for Community Relations work terminated on 31 March 2010 and there are plans to introduce a new Community Relations, Equality and Diversity policy during 2010-11. My officials will be working with key stakeholders across the education sector to ensure that best use is made of the level of funding available.”

Capital<

Speaking about the capital budget the Minister said: “I face a very challenging position in the coming year regarding investment in the schools estate, with a net capital budget for 2010-11 of £169million, which is over £84million lower in real terms than 2009-10.

“I am acutely aware that the building of any new school makes a significant difference not only to the children, but also to the teachers and wider community and I would hope to release a number of new capital projects later in the year.

“The available funding this year will be used to complete seven PPP projects currently on site. This investment of £101million in 2010-11 includes the Belfast Boys’ Model School, Grosvenor Grammar School, St Cecelia’s College and St Mary’s College in Derry, St Mary’s PS in Portglenone, St Joseph’s PS in Carryduff as well as Ballysillan Youth Club.

“In addition, a further seven major capital projects, with a projected total capital spend of £18.3million in 2010-11, are currently under construction. These include Magherafelt High School, where £6.9million will be invested in 2010-11, Lisbellaw Primary School and St Patrick’s and St Brigid’s Primary School in Ballycastle.

“The Education capital budget also covers investment in transport, youth and early years as well as minor works in an estate of over 1200 schools. This year we will invest £2.4million improving the physical infrastructure of playgroups involved in delivering the free pre-school year service and in settings delivering Sure Start. We will continue to invest in maintaining the fabric of the schools estate addressing priority improvement works. In the coming year, 35 youth projects, both refurbishment and new builds, will be completed and, working with our partner organisations, we will explore opportunities for a number of new youth projects in 2010-11.”

The Minister concluded: “I have listened to the concerns of educationalists across the sector and whilst it has been a very difficult task to deliver the savings required, the focus of the package I have announced today is on targeting resources to schools and those most in need. However we cannot simply stand still and I have also reallocated resources from some lower priority areas so that we can take forward key improvements in education for our children."

Notes to editors:

  1. Media enquiries to the Department of Education Press Office Tel: 028 9127 9207. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/news/news-de/news-de-210410-education-...<

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