Question Time: Education Monday 02 March 2015

The Education Minister, Mr John O'Dowd updated the house on the proposal for a new build at St Joseph's High School, Crossmaglen during today's Question Time. Provided that there is no delay due to issues with the feasibility study, it is anticipated that business case approval could be obtained as early as April 2015. The procurement of the integrated design team to take forward the project as a design and build will be carried out in tandem with the preparation of the business case. However, the appointment cannot be made until the approval of the business case is obtained. This project is still at early planning stage and hence there is not yet a programme time frame available for the build and design.

Paul Givan was keen to question the Education Minister to outline the number of young people who fail to complete years 13 and 14 of full-time education. Mr O'Dowd confirmed " The number of pupils who fail to complete years 13 and 14 is relatively small. The school leavers' survey shows that, in 2012-13, some 522 pupils left post-primary school without completing year 13, and 305 left without completing year 14. The survey also shows that the majority of those pupils — 76% of those leaving year 13 and 71 % of those leaving year 14 — went on to further education colleges, employment or training.

Many of those who fail to complete year 13 or year 14 do so because they are not content with their chosen pathway and decide to change direction. It is important, therefore, that young people are supported in making the right choices at the right time. Effective and timely careers guidance is important to support young people in making informed choices. That is why I welcomed the recent review of the joint DE/DEL careers strategy, which found that the strategy is sound and has resulted in significant improvements in the delivery of careers education over the past four years.

During the period of time allotted for topical questions Members also enquired about the Special Educational and Disability Bill, the appointment of the Chair of the Education Authority and when will the Minister be in a position to announce the next round of capital funding projects for new-build schools.

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