Question Time: Education - Tuesday 24 March 2015

The Education Minister began Oral Question time by answering a question on the number of joblosses that will come from schools in the Southern Education and Library board area. The Minister said " at this stage, it is estimated that 500 teaching and 1,000 non-teaching posts will be made redundant during the coming financial year. It is too early to determine the number of redundancies that may occur in the Southern Education and Library Board area. It is for individual employers to determine their staffing requirements, and it is not possible at this stage to determine the actual numbers of posts that will be declared redundant. The Minister then went on to answer a supplementary question from Miss Michelle McIlveen on what he is considering using the surplus fund that is available to his Department in a more creative way to offset schools' needs. " The Member raises a very interesting point. It is worth noting that, despite a very difficult term in the 2014-15 financial year, there is still a £47 million school surplus. I am not suggesting that the majority of those schools should now spend that surplus, but there are quite significant surpluses that in some cases run to over £500,000 accumulated over several years. That money is given to schools to spend on the educational well-being of pupils now. I have said before that some schools tell me that they are saving it for a rainy day, but my answer is, "Well, I tell you what, it's raining". That money needs to be drawn down in a responsible way and used. Perhaps there is a need for an Assembly debate or, without stepping on the Education Committee's toes, further research by the Committee as to how that surplus, if it is not drawn down within a reasonable period, is reinvested in education. We cannot continue with the scenario that allows £47 million of unspent moneys in education".

During the 15 minute period of Topical Questions the Minister answered question on what assurance he can give that the schools estate, particularly classrooms are up to a fit and proper standard, how the Minister's Department has dealt with the recommendations specific to it from the Employment and Learning Committee's inquiry into careers education, information, advice and guidance and approximately how amny primary-age children are studying computer programming.

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