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DUP still blocking ESA despite Church concerns being addressed

2 August, 2010 - by John O'Dowd

Sinn Féin Education spokesperson John O’ Dowd MLA has said that the establishment of the Educational Skills Authority continues to be blocked by elements within the DUP. This despite several bouts of negotiations between the DUP, Sinn Féin and representatives of the 4 main protestant churches which resulted in the satisfactory resolution of their outstanding concerns.
Mr O’ Dowd said;
“Sinn Féin has worked hard to resolve all outstanding issues of concern surrounding the introduction of the Educational Skills Authority which will oversee a massive reduction in bureaucracy within the education system and the redirection of tens of millions of pound into frontline educational services.
“The Executive agreed that ESA should be established on the 1st January 2010
ESA is meant to bring about a systematic approach to raising educational standards – something the Education and Library Boards are not capable of achieving. Currently the management and administration of education costs £135 million per annum.. The Outline Business Case for ESA estimates that £20 million p.a. could be saved.
“The presumption was that 463 posts could be reduced including 44% of senior management. £13 million has already been deducted from the education budget in 2010/11 and £20 million each year thereafter on the basis of these projected savings
£50 million was provided to facilitate voluntary severance and, because of the delays, £7 million of this had to be surrendered this year. That badly needed money has been lost to education.
“Despite Executive agreement the DUP continued to block progress. The Protestant churches raised genuine concerns about their role in the new body and at the beginning of June Sinn Féin moved once again and addressed these concerns to the satisfaction of the Protestant Churches representatives. All sides agreed a way forward, however, elements within the DUP continue to block the necessary legislation.
“It is clear from the RPA saga at Council level that, while some within the DUP talk about the need to reduce bureaucracy and save money for frontline services, when it comes to ‘walking the walk’ they trip up every time.
“Petty prejudices and parish pump politics cannot be allowed to stand in the way of ESA. Our education system can neither financially or educationally afford to wait on the backwoodsmen within the DUP catching up with the political and financial realities we all face.” ENDS

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