As I said, the education system is clearly in the very safest of hands Someone briefed the media in advance of the Northern Ireland Education Minister’s statement [new link] in the Assembly today on her proposed interim measures following the minister’s withdrawal of the Education Bill which was to properly establish the Education and Skills Authority on 1 January 2010. From the ministerial statement [pdf file]
I plan to reduce membership of the [Education and Library] Boards by over half, taking into account Equality legislation and discussions with the Commissioner for Public Appointments. I aim to ensure that the Transitional Boards will reflect the community they serve. My Department will be in contact with the relevant bodies which nominate to the Boards on the details in the coming days. I am also looking at the appropriate membership arrangements for the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment, the Staff Commission and Youth Council.
I have asked the Chairperson Designate of ESA, Sean Hogan, to take on a greater role in the Transitional period. The Chairperson Designate will convene meetings of the chairpersons of the Transitional Boards, and of the other education bodies, to ensure there is a strong co-ordinated approach to the convergence activity.
Performance management arrangements will be put in place for the chairpersons so that there is a clear focus for their work.
It is important that the Transitional Boards are working increasingly together on the reorganisation and delivery of services to facilitate transformation and convergence. Each Board currently operates with a number of Committees which perform functions delegated by the Boards.
I will be asking the Transitional Boards to introduce a Committee structure which helps facilitate transformation and convergence.
I want to ensure that the Chief Executive Designate of ESA, Gavin Boyd, now takes on a much more direct role in the preparations. I will be putting in place arrangements for the Accounting Officers in the Boards and the other bodies affected to report to the Department through Chief Executive Designate, who is an Accounting officer of the Dept of Education.
I will be asking the Chairperson and Chief Executive Designates to produce a Convergence Delivery Plan, with clear leadership roles for the in-coming ESA Directors, and associated timescales for implementation. The Plan should cover reorganisation of back office functions and managing cross-Board services, and also how the existing organisations are directed to drive forward key policies including Every School a Good School, the
Entitlement Framework and Area-based Planning and their adherence to equality duties under the Good Friday Agreement.
In the Transitional period there is a need for increased financial oversight so that we continue to ensure services are delivered and risks to a seamless transition to ESA carefully managed. I have therefore asked my department to review the financial delegations to the existing bodies.
As I said, these arrangements are all designed to reduce uncertainty and ensure that progress continues to be made until ESA is established in line with the Executives stated objective. The Chair and Chief Executive Designate of ESA will now play a greater role for the department in working with the nine existing organisations to ensure there is a strong co-ordinated approach to the convergence activity.
I have set out the measures which need to operate in the Transitional period. I hope that this is a very short period. I will monitor the effectiveness of the measures and supplement them with other changes as necessary.