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20 January 2015

Question Time: Employment & Learning - Monday 19 January 2015


At the start of Oral Questions to the Employment and Learning Minister he was asked about The Future of St Mary's University College and to outline his vision for the future of St Mary's College. The Minister stated that " Members are aware from my statement of 1 July 2014 that the international panel completed its review and delivered its report 'Aspiring to Excellence' on initial teacher education infrastructure in Northern Ireland.

The 'Aspiring to Excellence' report provides alternatives to the current infrastructure; alternatives which could enable initial teacher education to be delivered in a more cost-effective way and to a world-class standard. In my view, the options that best achieve these criteria would seem to be options B, a two-university approach, or D, a single institution. I have written to the
initial teacher education providers, requesting that they develop proposals to structure teacher education along these lines. I plan to meet with each of the providers this month to discuss their views.

I also firmly reiterate that my main aim in this process continues to be how we can best structure a system that can deliver world-class standards of teacher education; one that is financially sustainable, promotes greater sharing and integration and is in the best interests of our young people.

The Minister was also asked about his Departments Revised Budget Allocation by Mr Brady. The Minister replied that "the Finance Minister earlier announced a further allocation of £20 million to my budget or, depending on your perspective, the reallocation of money that was otherwise going to be cut from the budget and the receipt of another £13·5 million from bids made either on a single departmental basis or on a joint basis with other Departments to the change fund. Let me be very clear: I very much welcome the additional allocations that have been made by the Finance Minister and agreed by the Executive. That said, we still face a very challenging situation in terms of my budget. That will continue to pose real challenges and risks our being unable to provide and invest in the skills pipeline for the future of the Northern Ireland economy. We will have to see over the coming weeks how we can best mitigate the effect of those to protect the front line as best as possible".

During Topical Questions to the Minister for Employment and Learning he was asked questions on European Social Fund Applications, Further Education and People with Disabilities, Youth Unemployment in Rural Areas and  College Enrolment.