John O’Dowd: the education debate is “continuing in a better atmosphere” but it’s not yet time for all-party talks

John O'Dowd on East Belfast Speaks Out panelI grabbed a very quick interview with Education Minister John O’Dowd as he headed down the corridor in Ashfield Boys School to go home after last night’s East Belfast Speaks Out community hustings.

In the past few months he’s announced reductions in school budgets, given a partial reprieve after finding extra money for his department, and most recently announced a shake up of SEN/statementing. I asked whether this was all not a lot for school principals to have to deal with? As well as explaining the sequencing, John O’Dowd expressed his hope that further money would be secured for education “in the latter years of this Executive”.

Asking @JohnODowdSF about education & unblocking the transfer debate (mp3)

The transfer conundrum hasn’t gone away. Stalemate is the default position. So what could happen that would free the logjam? In his answer, John O’Dowd suggested that the debate was slowly changing.

… the voice of the non-selective sector is beginning to be heard … schools that do not practice academic selection are providing first rate education and they want to be recognised and identified and acknowledged for that, and they’re out there making their point heard … we await the report of the Catholic Commission in terms of the future shape of post-primary education in the Catholic sector.

He said “the debate continues, it’s continuing in a better atmosphere”.

So is it time for all-party talks on education? During the previous Assembly, all parties except Sinn Fein met to talk about education. John O’Dowd characterised those meetings as being about “how you keep academic selection” rather than “putting all the issues on the table”.

I’m not sure political talks at this stage would be beneficial … I think there has to be a wider community debate, a wider debate about all the issues around education … let that take place, and then allow the politicians to catch up.

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  • FuturePhysicist

    He announced the removal of SEN procedures, such as statementing, saying a shake up of statementing is deceptive. He’s removing it under the guise that it will expand provision. It will clearly lower provision of statutory rights, it will clearly increase bureaucracy and disruption and risks legal action against schools. In the end this is admission that pupils with complex needs will be denied the assessment they deserve, something that could impinge their lives in terms of civil rights and equality.

    These are the matters being “shaken up”

  • FuturePhysicist – John O’Dowd spoke about the SEN review and highlighted the absolute rights of children as part of answers in last night’s East Belfast Speaks Out … audio on the previous post.

  • FuturePhysicist

    He didn’t answer the question well enough I’m afraid.

  • Alan N/Ards

    My son got his AQE result this morning. I’m one proud dad. He worked hard and got the result that he deserved and will be at a grammar school next september.

  • Mary Anna

    God help children and generations to come – with the likes of that education cowboy at the door of education.Its all down hill from here.

  • Zig70

    My kid got his aqe and ql results. Didn’t tell his teacher or myself anything new. Waste of time and put a lot of pressure on a child. But currently the only option on the table to give him the best chance of showing his potential. I’m hoping the CCMS lead the way.

  • cynic2

    “all party talks”

    Isn’t that what the Education Committee is for? What am I missing? If we pay a fortune for Stormont why isn’t it being used to address this issue?

  • caseydog

    John O’Dowd says he is awaiting proposals from the Catholic Commission on Education (NICCE). They are sending their Report into schools on 9 February. Presumably they will also issue a press statement outlining the main points. However as they have done little preparatory work with the grammar schools, whose support is critical, it is entirely possible that it will be ignored, as all previous proposals have been. The Bishops are either asleep at the wheel, or have their mind on other things.

    He is right that the non-selective sector is beginning to be heard, but not by the Catholic hierarchy. That is the problem.

  • FuturePhysicist

    That beats me … O’Dowd claim he was defending “our hard fought institutions” by avoiding all party talks or ‘stakeholder’ talks on education.

    Clearly when DUP, SDLP, UUP, Alliance and the Green Party say otherwise then you have to have talks.