As noted on the delay in progressing the Education Bill, yesterday the ESA Chief Executive Designate, Gavin Boyd said
However the Minister has made it very clear that she remains focussed on the agreed implementation date of 1 January. She plans that the Education Bill will move to Consideration Stage as soon as possible, so that it completes its Assembly passage early next month and becomes law before Christmas.
Today, as the BBC reports, the Northern Ireland Education Minister, Sinn Féin’s Caitríona Ruane, clarified her position in a speech to the Association of Education and Library Boards. From the NI Education Minister’s speech [pdf file]
While it is still politically possible for the legislative process to be complete for 1 January, as the Minister responsible for education, I recognise that the heightened uncertainty which could impact on front line services has to be dispelled.
I have asked my officials to finalise proposals for the interim governance arrangements in the period to then. I believe that collectively all those interested in the education system, in the children at the heart of that system can and will ensure a smooth transition to ESA whether that be on January 1st or beyond that date.
I will say more about the interim arrangements in the coming days. I am conscious that I have a duty to inform my Ministerial colleagues and fellow Assembly members of the Interim arrangements I will be putting in place.
But let me assure everyone either in or outside of this room that a smooth transition is on my agenda and it should be on yours!
The revised arrangements will be capable of accelerating the convergence process toward ESA and ensuring that we are fit for purpose to face the next financial year.
It is clear that we face significant resources constraints next year. In addition, the existing delay in ESA coming into being has meant that savings of £21m in total costs of excess bureaucracy which are already factored in to our financial plans, have yet to be achieved and we will face a huge challenge to meet these savings. If not addressed and addressed urgently this will impact on front line services. That I cannot allow to happen.
In the period ahead I will task the ESA Implementation Team to lead and co-ordinate work across the existing organisations to maintain service continuity and deliver the levels of savings required in preparation for ESA.
I know a delay will be disappointing to many here and many more across the education system.
I regret that the political process has not yet delivered what the Executive promised, but I remain determined that it will before long.
Adds And from the Education Minister’s press statement
The Minister said: “If the political will exists, the Executive objective of 1 January 2010 for the establishment of the Education and Skills Authority (ESA), could still be achieved.
“I will however in the coming days, announce interim plans to ensure a smooth transition between the current structures and ESA, in the absence of political goodwill in achieving the Executive decision to have ESA in place by 1 January 2010.”