Page last updated at 20:01 GMT, Tuesday, 26 June 2012 21:01 UK

Primary education provision

Alliance Party MLA Chris Lyttle expressed concern for the future of primary schools in his East Belfast constituency, on 26 June 2012.

Mr Lyttle drew attention to the position of schools that were experiencing pressures due to increasing population.

He spoke about people's concerns that the future planning of education provision was being based on separate plans for controlled and maintained sectors.

The education committee chairman, Mervyn Storey questioned whether Mr Lyttle knew the difference between shared and integrated education.

He suggested that many of the problems in east Belfast had been caused by the setting up of integrated schools.

The DUP's Robin Newton called for investment in pre-school projects. He welcomed the announcement of a new school for Victoria Park Primary, but was disappointed that the same had not been done for Strandtown Primary.

Michael Copeland of the UUP shared his family's experiences of education in east Belfast.

The DUP's Sammy Douglas, Judith Cochrane of Alliance, and the South Down SDLP MLA Sean Rogers also spoke.

Replying to the debate, Education Minister John O'Dowd said area planning was the way forward.

Planning could no longer be based on the needs of individual schools, he said.

Mr O'Dowd said it was not the case that there would be one plan for CCMS (Catholic) schools and one for controlled schools.

"There will be one plan published," he said.

The minister said it was no longer a secret that "ESA's in trouble".

The Education and Skills Authority is the single authority intended to replace the regional education boards.

Mr O'Dowd said the executive would have to make up its mind on whether or not to go ahead with the new authority.

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