Page last updated at 14:20 GMT, Tuesday, 25 September 2012 15:20 UK

Question Time: Education and Employment

Education Minister John O'Dowd announced the introduction of the Education Bill relating to the proposed Education and Skills Authority, on 25 September 2012.

The minister said he hoped to bring the bill to the house on 1 October.

Samuel Gardiner of the UUP wanted an explanation for the delay in bringing in the bill.

"A week is a long time in politics," Mr O'Dowd said, adding that the Education Bill had proved to be very controversial matter.

The education minister expressed his shock and sympathy at the fire which destroyed Arvalee Special School and Resource Centre.

Replying to a question from the DUP's Thomas Buchanan, the minister said the fire would have a devastating effect on the school community and on some of the most vulnerable children in our society.

He said he hoped the children would be able to return to the school in January 2013.

In the longer term, Mr O'Dowd said, it was hoped that a new-build school would open at the Lisanelly site in Omagh in 2015.

Paul Girvan of the DUP asked for an update on area-based planning for primary and post-primary schools.

The minister said the education boards had published their proposals in July and there was a public consultation set to run for 16 weeks.

In reply to a supplementary question from the UUP's Leslie Cree, Mr O'Dowd said he was actively considering the preparation of school viability reports on an annual basis.

Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry was asked by Sinn Fein's Caitriona Ruane about the position of students denied access to universities in the Republic due to the non-recognition of A-levels.

The minister said this was a matter for the Minister of Education but both he and Mr O'Dowd had raised the matter with the Republic's Education Minister, Ruairi Quinn.

Mr Quinn was sympathetic but it was up to the South's central admissions body (CAO) to make decisions on the matter.

"I do understand that progress is being made," the minister said.

The UUP's Roy Beggs asked the minister how he intended to assist workers due to be made redundant from FG Wilson engineering in gaining alternative employment.

Mr Farry gave details of his department's redundancy advice service.

He said that a number of companies had expressed an interest in redeploying staff due to be made redundant at FG Wilson.

The minister said Northern Regional College was offering training and upskilling, and that Belfast Metropolitan College had also approached the company to offer its services.


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