BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 January 2008, 15:53 GMT
Budget boosts for education and arts
By Maggie Taggart
BBC NI education correspondent

If the aims and aspirations of the programme for government, linked to the 2008-2011 budget, are followed through, what a rosy picture they paint of the future for education and the arts.

Teacher in class
One of the targets for education has been reduced

If targets are met there will be better results from young people at school, especially those from poorer families.

There will be more PhD research posts at local universities; 80% of workers will have GCSEs or the equivalent and 25% more people will study the STEM subjects vital for the economy: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

In the consultation period between the publication of the draft programme for government and its publication, one target for education has been reduced.

Originally, spending in the future was to have been aimed at ensuring the number of pupils who leave school with five or more good GCSEs would rise from 64% to 70%.

That aim is now reduced to a target of 68%.

In the arts, the minister for finance and personnel congratulated the arts community for well-organised lobbying over what it considered a paltry budget.

That brought a modest cash reward.

The Arts Council will get an extra 7.5m over three years... not what it had asked for but better than it had been offered.

The whole Department of Culture Arts and Leisure is to get an extra 6m over three years, but that has to cover sports and libraries too.

Arts mask
Arts Council will get and extra 7.5m over three years
The new Creative Industries Seed Fund will bring in 5m. The aim is to grow the creative industries by 15% by 2011.

In all these sectors the aim is to get value for money; the arts is acknowledged to not only please the local population but also bring in money.

Cultural tourism and movie production are two money earners in that category.

In education, both for young and old, the planned improvements in training and qualifications would give personal satisfaction to individuals but also make the workforce more saleable.

The idea is to match second and third level education with the needs of the economy.

As Peter Robinson told the assembly in his budget speech: "Decades of lost opportunity cannot be put right overnight."

He sees this budget as a step in the right direction: "A powerful and positive beginning".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific