Minister of Education, John O’Dowd, discussed the GCSE grading system in Northern Ireland during today’s Question Time. Fearghal McKinney MLA expressed concern about the difference between the Northern Irish system and the new numerical grading system being introduced in England. Mr O’Dowd revealed that his Department held a consultation on the matter and, before any decision is reached, the views of young people, parents, teachers, schools, principals, universities and trade unions will be sought – “my decision will be based on what I consider to be in the best interests of our young people.” The Minister stressed the importance of maintaining the relevance and portability of our qualifications and that they continue to be recognised across the island and beyond.
The Minister also updated the House on capital build projects in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. A number of major works have been announced for the area including £6m for Enniskillen Model, £28.7m for St Patrick’s Academy in Dungannon and £23.2m for Devenish College. The Portora Royal/Collegiate Grammar business case is currently being prepared, and the business case for Edendork Primary School is anticipated to be approved in this financial year. There are also a number of school enhancement projects (SEPs) in the constituency area, valued at over £14 million. The Minister enthused that “those major works and SEPs represent a significant investment in the constituency, and not only in economic terms, as they will benefit the children and the community in the area” but warned that “all projects that are not contractually committed to will be subject to funding being available.”
During Question Time the Minister continued to answer Members queries on fair employment in schools, preschool provision in South Belfast, anti-sectarianism programmes in schools and Easter Rising centenary celebrations in schools.