Question Time: Education 3 March 2014

During today’s Questions to the Education Minister, John O’Dowd provided an update on the work of the advisory group on the development of Irish medium post-primary education. The group has met 14 times since August 2013, has met with key stakeholders, gathered evidence from the systems in Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland and their final report is expected in the next few weeks. The Minister is “keen to identify where more needs to be done to develop this important area further and to ensure that the education in the sector is of the highest quality”.

The Minister also outlined the funding schemes he has put in place to involve parents more actively in all aspects of their children’s education. These include a community education initiatives programme, the extended-schools initiative and the extension of the Sure Start programme. These programmes will “support parents in communities with high levels of educational deprivation to get their children ready for school and supports them through all phases of their education”.

Karen McKevitt expressed concern for the well-being of teachers when she asked the Minister what he is doing to support teachers as they manage the stress and pressures associated with their profession. As part of the strategy for teacher health, schemes to improve the flexibility of teacher working patterns have been employed, a 24-hour confidential telephone counselling service has been set up and new policy statements on measures to combat the bullying and abusive behaviour suffered by teachers have been rolled out.

During topical questions Mr O’Dowd answered Members’ questions on the Shankill manifesto for education, capital spending plans, the common funding formula and school absenteeism.

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