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Announcements made at a party conference do not amount to open and transparent government – Overend

Sandra Overend MLA has expressed disappointment that the Education Minister chose to make important announcements about schools funding at his own party conference rather than making them in the Assembly Chamber.

Mrs Overend said:

“As a Member of the Legislative Assembly it is only reasonable that I and my colleagues from other parties should expect to be among the first to hear of major developments or decisions within a Department or from a Minister. Indeed, now that we have an Official Opposition at the Assembly, one apparently welcomed by the Executive, there is even more reason to ensure that Assembly business be conducted at the Assembly.

“Instead the Minister of Education chose to make a major announcement about education funding on stage at his own party conference. Peter Weir stated that he would be reallocating an extra £14 million to the school budget in-year followed by a pause for applause. Is that what he was seeking? Applause?

“It seems to me that Mr Weir made this announcement at the party conference simply because he did not have much else to say to his party colleagues. The truth of the matter is that our Education Minister is completely lacking in leadership and vision; failing to make any meaningful decisions on post-primary transfer, creating a hybrid situation in GCSE grading; and funding an employment scheme which targets only those most recently graduated, not those necessarily best suited for the job.

“The announcement itself, whilst a welcome interim measure, will do little to provide a long term solution to the funding pressures felt by schools in Northern Ireland. If anything this decision will only serve to frustrate schools further. Schools have already submitted their budgets and made the decisions necessary to make savings. Many schools have already gone through the difficult process of making teachers and other staff members redundant to cut costs. So I am sorry to say Minister, you’re rather late.

“This is an Executive and an Education Minister completely out of tune with the reality out on the ground. Hopefully they will get with it sometime between now and the end of the mandate.”


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