Page last updated at 19:04 GMT, Monday, 15 October 2012 20:04 UK

Education Bill: Second Stage

The Education Bill passed its second reading, on 15 October 2012.

Education Minister John O'Dowd said the proposals contained within the bill did not threaten the "ethos or identity" of any school.

The bill sought to replace the five education boards and the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools with a single Education and Skills Authority (ESA).

The minister said the board system was "an ageing direct rule model that is no longer fit for purpose".

He outlined some of the aims of ESA, including improving educational outcomes, planning the education estate and the budget and overseeing employment and professional development

Mr O'Dowd said some of the stakeholders remained wary of the bill, or were opposed to it.

He emphasised the continued autonomy of schools and the means of appointing the membership of ESA, which would respect the established rights of churches.

"Our education system needs this bill," he said.

Mervyn Storey of the DUP, who chairs the Education Committee, said there was a sense of "deja vu" about the bill as there had been a bill in the previous mandate, which had been unsatisfactory.

Jim Allister of the Traditional Unionist Voice intervened to assert that the policy of area planning could be used as a "Trojan horse" against the voluntary grammar schools.

Mr Storey said he shared those concerns.

He said the committee was prepared to see the bill advance "with some reservations and some issues".

Chris Hazzard of Sinn Fein backed the minister, his Sinn Fein party colleague

"The educational case for change is obvious," he said.

Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kinahan said members should regard the bill as "brimful of hidden intentions".

He said Sinn Fein would like to dismantle everything and anything that smacked of Britain.

Mr Kinahan said the UUP would oppose the bill every step of the way "as it is a flawed piece of legislation".

The debate continued after Question Time.


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