Question Time: Education, Monday 7 October 2013

During Topical Questions today the Education Minister Mr John O'Dowd answered questions on matters ranging from possible school closures, area planning, the Common Funding Scheme to shared education and professional development.

Other areas of concern covered today during Oral Questions to the Minister of Education were the merge of Knockbreda and Newtownbreda High School, Entrepreneurship, Funding in Strangford and Education and Skills Authority.

Mr Newton MLA asked the Minister of Education for an update on the merge of Knockbreda and Newtownbreda High Schools

The Minister explained that the “Development proposal number 237 for the amalgamation of Knockbreda High School and Newtownbreda High School was published by the South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) on 16 April 2013.  The statutory two-month consultation period ended on 16 June.  However, on 25 June, the Belfast Education and Library Board (BELB) advised my Department that it had not carried out the required consultation with the schools in its area that may be affected by the three SEELB development proposals: Knockbreda/Newtownbreda High Schools, Dundonald High School and Priory Integrated College, Holywood.  The consultation was initiated by the BELB in the week commencing 9 September and ended on 30 September.  A response from the BELB is expected in the next few weeks”.  The Minister will make his decision on the proposal as soon as possible to provide clarity and certainty for the schools affected.

Mrs Cochrane asked the Minister what he is doing to promote entrepreneurship in schools?

The Minister replied with, “Employability, including entrepreneurship, is a key theme underpinning the revised curriculum, which aims to better prepare all our young people for all aspects of life and work and enable them to develop as confident and articulate individuals able to play their full part in society and the economy.  At primary school level, through the area of personal development and mutual understanding, pupils are given opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills, understanding, attitudes and personal qualities related to enterprise and entrepreneurship.  At post-primary level, entrepreneurship is covered under the employability strand of Learning for Life and Work with a focus on work in the local and global economy, career management and enterprise and entrepreneurship”.

Mr Nesbitt asked the Minister, based on the reworked 2013-14 budget on the new common funding scheme, what proportion of schools in the Strangford constituency will have a reduction in their funding.

The Minister stated, “Indicative budgets for each grant-aided school were prepared as part of the consultation process.  Those budgets are for illustrative purposes only and reflect the delegated budget that individual schools would have received in the current financial year, if the proposed changes had been implemented.  My proposals on the reform of the common funding scheme are still out for consultation.  I have not taken any final decision on those proposals yet.  It is not possible, therefore, to provide figures on the budgets that will be made available to schools for next year until those decisions are made”.

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