Employment and Learning Committee Chair, Basil McCrea has called for Northern Ireland’s three teacher training colleges to merge on a shared campus. He also urged the DEL Minister not to leave Stranmillis “out to dry”.
The Ulster Unionist MLA said;
“Firstly, the Minister has rightly identified that there are concerns about the loss of the Protestant ethos in Stranmillis, if it were to be merged. It is also fair to say that there is a question regarding Stranmillis merger with Queens University if St Mary’s were not to merge as well – this would not represent a truly shared future for teacher training. In fact, I wonder why the Minister is implementing a study when the figures so blatantly show that the numbers are not there to financially sustain the two colleges.’
“Secondly, the Committee has taken representation from a number of different people, and there is concern about the fact that St Mary’s College is not part of UCAS while Stranmillis College is, and that seems to give some imbalance.’
“Finally, the issue of the certificate in Religious Education, which is needs to teach in the maintained sector, seems to preclude certain sections of student teachers from gaining employment in certain areas, and that appears to be unfair.’
“Taking it all in the round, however, I am disappointed that we have set out the problem but have more or less left Stranmillis hung out to dry. The additional money for the non-teacher training for students at Stranmillis is £1·1 million. We need clarification form the Minister if that money will be withdrawn and if indeed it is also being withdrawn for St Mary’s. I would urge the Department of Employment and Learning to find some form of tempory financial solution while they carry out their analysis of the financial stability and sustainability of both Stranmillis and St Mary’s.’