Education

Part of Oral Answers to Questions – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:00 pm on 12th March 2013.

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Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin 2:00 pm, 12th March 2013

I thank the Member for his question.  If I wanted to ruin controlled education, I would keep every school open.  I would keep all those schools open that cannot provide a sustainable and good education for the young people of the controlled sector.  I would keep open those schools that are not sustainable in any way — schools that, despite the best efforts over the years of the principal, the board of governors, the senior management team and others, are no longer in a position to provide good education for communities that they serve.  I would keep them open.  That is how you destroy education — by keeping unsustainable schools open.

However, I and my predecessors have grappled with the issue and taken it on.  There are schools in our system — in the maintained, the controlled, the voluntary sectors and other sectors — that are no longer sustainable and are not capable of providing quality education for the young people they serve, and the only option is to close them.  That sends out a very strong message that education is important and we will allow no one to be provided with a substandard education, regardless of what sector they come from.

I do not accept the Member's comment that the controlled sector has borne the brunt of it.  The figures do not back that up.  However, I will not be closing schools on the basis of one controlled, one maintained, one voluntary, one Irish-medium and one integrated.  I will close schools when all the evidence suggests that that is the best thing to do, regardless of what sector they come from.