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Educational Skill Authority an important step in modernising our education system

8 December, 2008 - by John O'Dowd

Sinn Féin Education spokesperson John O' Dowd MLA has said the Educational Skill Authority is an important step in modernising our education system.

Mr O' Dowd said:

"The aim of ESA is to have a more effective education system, with effectiveness measured in the terms that matter most to children and parents: educational attainment; and the quality of teaching and learning.

To achieve this we need:

  • better planning of the education estate and the delivery of the curriculum;
  • better support services for schools and other education providers;
  • more local delivery of services, but within a consistent policy framework; and
  • freedom for school leaders to manage and innovate, with clear responsibility for outcomes.

"The most common measure of schools' performance is the achievement by its pupils of 5 good GCSE's - the level of qualification that represents the gateway to higher education and, often, the gateway to employment.

"Looking at non-grammar schools, the variation in results is marked. In the Catholic-managed sector, almost 49% of pupils are gaining 5 good GCSEs. In the controlled sector, the figure is just 41%.

" A gap of 8% is simply unacceptable. It is clear evidence that our fragmented system cannot deal effectively with underperformance. There can only be one conclusion as to why schools in one sector are consistently outperforming schools in another sector. Good practice doesn't cross organisational and sectoral boundaries.

Responding to concerns raised by UNISON that ESA will be a super QUANGO Mr O'Dowd said:

"Local councillors will make up the majority of ESA members. In addition, The Minister will ensure that the members of the authority have the skills and experience to lead the ESA, and that the democratic accountability of this key public service is ensured.

"ESA will be a regional organisation with a strong local presence and a real focus on local delivery. Local managers and delivery units will have the freedom to respond to specific local need. They will be sensitive to and receive input from a Committee from that area comprising, amongst others, a number of local representatives. Provisions for the establishment of such committees have already been included in the first RPA Bill." ENDS

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