I had noted Cardinal Sean Brady’s concerns about the Education and Skills Authority ahead of his appearance in front of the NI Assembly’s Education Committee yesterday, and the comments by the Chairman of the Committee, the DUP’s Mervyn Storey. [Did John O’Dowd tell the Cardinal to ‘move on’? – Ed] In the Irish Times Gerry Moriarty reports on that meeting.
Cardinal Brady expressed considerable concern that the departments planned new Education and Skills Authority (ESA) would undermine the ability of schools trustees and boards of governors to run Catholic schools.
He said that one clause in the Ministers draft education Bill making the ESA the employer of all staff in all schools was unacceptable. This is a fundamental impediment to the ability of owners/trustees to exercise their right and duty to promote and safeguard the ethos and defining character of a school. To exercise our duties as trustees adequately we require that the board of governors of each school shall be the legal employer of all staff in the school, he added.
The Irish Times report also notes the response from an anonymous “spokesman for Ms Ruane”, the NI Education Minister.
A spokesman for Ms Ruane said the commissions suggestion that individual boards of governors, rather than the ESA should be the formal employers of staff would depart from the arrangements in the education Bill. It would also depart from the current arrangements for Catholic maintained schools, in which teachers are employed by the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, and non-teaching staff are employed by the Norths education and library boards.
It is not clear from the submission why the commission feels that only individual school employers can safeguard the ethos of Catholic schools, particularly when at present the vast majority of Catholic schools are part of collective employment arrangements, he added.
Meanwhile, as the NI Education budget goes largely unnoticed, the BBC reports on unease amongst education representatives for the Methodist, Church of Ireland and Presbyterian churches about an unregulated post-primary transfer system. From the BBC report
Education representatives for the Methodist, Church of Ireland and Presbyterian churches said in a statement that the current uncertainty “represents a failure in good governance”.
The Reverend Trevor Gribben of the Presbyterian Church said he believed their views represented a “huge unease” felt by many.
“It’s amongst principals, governors and teachers in primary schools, who are being put under huge pressure,” he said.
“It’s unease amongst parents of year six pupils and the pupils themselves, who do not want the potential chaos of an unregulated system.
“People who are setting tests are trying their very best to get rid of that confusion, but nonetheless it exists.
“Government have a responsibility to do something about it and we are calling, even at this late stage, on the minister of education to sit down with the political parties to try and find interim agreed arrangements for transfer.”
Apparently, the Catholic Church “is to reveal its thinking on the post-primary transfer system next week.”