Education: Departmental Opportunities

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 2nd March 2015.

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Photo of Pat Sheehan Pat Sheehan Sinn Féin 3:15 pm, 2nd March 2015

T9. Mr Sheehan asked the Minister of Education what opportunities exist in the realignment of his Department in the years ahead. (AQT 2199/11-15)

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

Bringing children's services into the Department of Education is the right decision. It allows for a complete focus on the child and on children's needs, pressures and opportunities. It has been the right move. It is an opportunity for the Department to engage in the entire education and well-being of the child. As I have often said standing here, while we have many, many, many fine teachers, they cannot do this on their own. Unless we look at all aspects of a child's life, education is not going to work.

Photo of Pat Sheehan Pat Sheehan Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire as a fhreagra. Could the Minister tell the Assembly what priorities he suggests the new board focuses on?

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

I do not wish to bring the wrath of the Education Authority down on me in the first number of weeks of it taking charge of the education remit, but there are quite significant budgetary challenges ahead. The focus for us all has to be on improving educational outcomes for all our young people and on ensuring that, where opportunities exist, they are exploited to the full and that, where challenges exist, there are answers and ways found for our young people. The Education Authority presents a huge opportunity for our education system. Its membership is from a wide range of organisations. I suspect that they will naturally come in thinking initially about the needs of their own organisation but will quite quickly gel around a common cause. That common cause has to be the educational well-being of all our young people.