Ulster Unionist Newry and Armagh candidate Danny Kennedy has pointed out the failure of the DUP to prevent Sinn Féin Education Ministers going on ‘solo runs’.
Danny Kennedy said:
“People will recall that when the DUP signed up to the St Andrews Agreement, they said they would put an end to Ministerial ‘solo-runs’. Nowhere does that claim ring so hollow as in the field of education, where Sinn Fein Ministers have continued to pursue a partisan and ideologically driven agenda to the detriment of our schools.
“From my perspective as a former Chairman of the Education committee in the first Assembly, I have been amazed at how weak and ineffectual the DUP have been on the outgoing committee. They have had the Chairmanship of the Education Committee since 2007, and quite frankly have utterly failed to hold Sinn Féin Ministers to account on issues from post primary transfer to financial mismanagement.
“When we have challenged and put the spotlight on dubious decisions made by Minister O’Dowd, the support from the DUP has been lukewarm, to say the least. It was the Ulster Unionist Party which exposed the fact that the Minister went against official advice in several contentious decisions which have major financial ramifications. One of the most high profile was the opening of a new Irish Medium secondary school with an initial pupil intake of 14 near Dungiven. We also led the campaign against the continuing exception to fair employment regulations for teaching appointments and the requirement for RE certificates in maintained schools.
“It is therefore a case of too little too late, when the DUP complain in their threadbare manifesto that “the failure of the Department of Education to make changes to the GCSE grading system is detrimental to both pupils and school.” We in the Ulster Unionists Party have been consistent in warning about the consequences of Minister O’Dowd failing to maintain parity in changes to GCSE grading with England. However, the fact is that in the Assembly the DUP initially welcomed the Sinn Fein decision to retain the alphabetical grading system. Once again, they have changed their position and adopted an Ulster Unionist policy, but as usual too late.
“On issue after issue there has been a cosy consensus between the DUP and Sinn Féin on education, so people should not be fooled by eleventh hour tough talk. They are like two peas in a pod.”