Ulster Unionist MLA and former Deputy Chair of the Education committee Sandra Overend has said that sorting out the budget crisis for schools should be the first priority of the new Education Minister.
Sandra Overend MLA said:
“I welcome Peter Weir into his new job as Education Minister and can promise him constructive opposition in the weeks and months to come.
“There are many educational issues which deserve the Minister’s attention; big issues like shared education, early years’ provision for special educational needs, curriculum review and post primary transfer, but overall he needs to demonstrate that he has a long term vision for Education.
“However, the most pressing and immediate issue is the financial crisis which many schools- both primary and secondary- have been plunged into by the 2016/17 budget. As ‘extra’ money has already been announced as being part of the June Monitoring round as far back as February, it is unclear where the new Minister will be able to find the necessary finance to address the schools budget crisis.
“I also note with interest that the new Minister’s manifesto refers to ‘the recent grading debacle’ and commits him to ‘restore a portable, accountable and open market in exam qualifications for schools.’ This echoes the stance the Ulster Unionist Party took in opposing the previous Minister’s decision to break parity with England by continuing with alphabetical grading of GCSEs. However, it contrasts with Mr Weir’s reaction when Mr O’Dowd took his decision last November. Then he said ‘I welcome the Minister's remarks. It is the right decision to retain the alphabetical grading for Northern Ireland.’
“Some early clarity on this issue from the new Minister would be welcomed by all concerned.”