Page last updated at 13:24 GMT, Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Education Committee

The level of voluntary redundancy payments agreed with the teaching unions was criticised in the assembly education committee, on 22 February 2012.

Committee chairperson Mervyn Storey of the DUP said the payments had originally been set at up to 60 weeks pay.

Following negotiations between the Education Minister, John O'Dowd, and the unions this had been increased to up to 90 weeks, he observed.

Education department official Laverne Montgomery said the indications were that 60 weeks would approximate to £45,000 per teacher, whilst 90 weeks could mean £60,000 per teacher.

The figures emerged during a departmental briefing on pre-budget planning.

Another senior official, John McGrath, welcomed the additional £120m in funding for education agreed with the finance minister, but emphasised that this would only help to address the financial difficulties facing schools rather than eradicating those problems entirely.

Even with the extra funding there was an effective cut of 10% in school budgets.

There was also criticism of the executive's programme for expanding nursery education.

Mervyn Storey said the the whole pre-school programme appeared to be about getting children into places, and questioned the quality of the education being provided.

Mr Storey said a number of problems had been identified with pre-school provision, including high staff turnover, low minimum staff qualifications and a lack of opportunities for training.

John McGrath agreed that there was "no point in providing places if there is no added value for the children involved".

Mr McGrath defended the role of the education inspectorate in examining standards in pre-school settings.

His departmental colleague, Linda Wilson said, "we have concentrated on improving standards in the private, voluntary, community sector".

Miss Wilson said there were some indications that nursery units in primary schools were not showing the same consistent level of quality as in the other sectors.

Education committee membership

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