13/11/2012 Stormont Today


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Mark Carruthers is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont.

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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up on the programme: The


Culture Minister is under pressure again over the ongoing stand-off


with Sandy Row Boxing Club. club receiving any funding must be


affiliated. That is what has said yesterday. That is what I said this


morning. If you've had a tough day at the


office, don't worry, apparently you're not alone. Korea pathways


change. -- career pathways change. And the success of our athletes


this summer is in the spotlight with cross-party backing for young


Paralympians hoping to make it in their chosen sport.


A recent inspection of schools in Northern Ireland found there's a


problem with poor leadership. Well, today, in a DUP motion, MLAs


discussed those findings and called for the Education Minister, John


O'Dowd, to introduce more stringent measures to increase confidence in


the management of schools. It was quite alarming to see such a report


come out. It does highlight a number of serious issues within the


education system. What the report does not do this criticise the


overall achievements of those attending the school or the


teaching quality within the school itself. But it does go on to


criticise how those schools are actually governed. While I see some


issues out there, I would never have dreamt that they were as large


as it is in this report. It is not up to me to say it if it is right


or wrong, that is what the inspectors are finding. Personally,


I have a lot of sympathy for teachers. It is a job I have always


admitted to openly that I could not do. I would not have the patience


to teach in a classroom. I have future admiration for all of those


teachers out there who not only teach but in some cases actually


have to manage and run their particular schools. What we need in


our schools is effective motivated management that is not afraid to


challenge. And take the appropriate steps were necessary. If a school


leader has the commitment, drive and energy to deliver the ethos of


the school, this will have a positive effect on others. I


believe this report has highlighted many good examples of where


improvements have been made in the sector and it does have to be


welcomed. In answer to the question we hear that out of the 59 on the


ground inspected schools, 38 have no classroom experience, 38 out of


59. We need to make sure there are more teachers involved and to cut


some system that includes teachers -- look at some system. Those who


continue to deliver at the chalk face are school staff not just


teachers but all of the staff who have to create is stimulating


learning environment. Despite in some cases poor classroom


conditions, having to cope with half-baked ideas bike computer-


based assessment -- like computer- based assessment and increase


bureaucracy. We all recognise the challenges facing a syndicate colt


economic times -- facing us in difficult economic times. Last week,


if you said school leaders play a vital role. You are right. The


classroom leader, the Department leader, the school leader. It


starts and ends in the classroom. This is where school leaders are


born. You have do have the ability to ignite the minds of your


audience. The vast majority of our schools are doing well or improving.


The vast majority of our people in leadership positions are doing well


and improving. Why then do we her still questions around leadership


in some schools and why do we still have poor teaching? You cannot


blame that entirely upon the Minister of the day or the


Department of Education. I do have a responsibility and I take the


responsibility very seriously and I have every policy and proposal I


bring for it is targeted at improving education. But members


are going to have to accept that every now and again occasionally it


arises that the fault lies with the individual in the classroom, the


individual in the principal's office, the individuals around the


governing tables and they have to be held to account. She asks, who


holds the Minister to account? That is your job. It is your job to hold


me to account along with the 170 MLAs, the Education Committee, the


media and ultimately the electric. I am held to account and regularly


so. -- the electorate. We're interest in our education system


our young people. -- we can trust. We allow them to show their futures.


Thankfully, the vast majority of our teachers and school leaders


provide them with the chance in life.


John O'Dowd. It was a busy day for Mr O'Dowd because it was also the


Minister's turn to take questions. But following a playground row with


the SDLP, he discussed the Education and Skills Authority, so-


called STEM subjects and even a possible career change. Can the


Minister confirm the new arrangements will have no impact on


the day-to-day autonomy of schools? They will not have any day today in


terms of employment practice in schools... They will be the


employing but 34 or staff. Boards of governors will manage the


school's and take the employment decisions. It will bring better


workforce planning. But there will be no loss of autonomy for our


schools. I would like to ask the Minister how he sees exactly this


new yardstick for measuring social disadvantage and will it in his


opinion, changes to the benefit system, lead to less children being


eligible for free school meals? do not want to see less


schoolchildren eligible and my department is working with the sub-


committee set up to examine the possible implications of the


welfare reform bill. We are examining the proposals. I have on


the record said I want to protect the family is currently on free


school meals and ensure that they remain eligible under any future


definition of welfare reform. However, you will be aware that the


previous Education spokesperson spoken against free school meals so


I'm not sure now whether the SDLP position has changed... You are now


in support? I seem to have upset him. Order. Order. It was so fat on


numerous occasions, the previous SDLP education spokesperson... If


the member would let me finish. I am only repeating what he has told


me. In numerous debates and Miss Turner, the previous SDLP


spokesperson Stubbs and criticised the social cause in the pre-school


setting -- in numerous debates in this chamber. Would he looked up


some comprehensive way of speaking to the teachers and hearing whether


they work? The previous system worked well and maybe we we should


be looking at changing the legislation. I devoted the energies


of the Department to resolving the problems currently. I think that we


need to look at computer-based assessments and how they fit in


with the other programmes. If we need to change or review the


legislation, let us do that. I do not want to dismiss computer-based


assessment, the principle of it, how it is done, what its objectives


are, I am open to persuasion on and discussions with parents, teachers


and schools. It is important we move away from a courier service


which is not about Korea pass. It is up to the individuals' to decide


what path they follow but can the Minister give the House any


guidance on specific strategies he has in place to try to encourage


young people to follow a course in the STEM subject? It is quite


difficult for young people to decide their career path way. There


are matters such change. I am sure there have been many Korea pathways


in this house. Every time there is question-time, I think about


changing my career. There has been a greater focus placed on the STEM


subject. Careers advice around a STEM subtext is vitally important.


I have been meeting with providers of STEM employment and talking to


them about how they can enhance the STEM subtext at an early age. I


want pupils to think outside of the traditional academic careers,


whether it's the law, medicine, whatever it maybe, teaching, think


outside of that and look at the STEMs as a good career. There is


more work to be done and we have to learn from the employers and I


think the STEM subtext... It is difficult to bridge it economy will


look like but I think any student with a number of STEM subjects


under their belt is equipping themselves well. I am very sad to


hear that the minister is thinking about a career change. I would be


quite happy for him to stay in post as long as he does not play as much


party politics as he is this afternoon.


The SDLP's Conall McDevitt. The subject of sectarianism in boxing


was on the agenda again today at Culture, Arts and Leisure Question


Time. First though, the Minister, Caral ni Chuilin was asked about


support for young footballers who want to play professionally across


the water. Responsibility for supporting young footballers who


wished to progress to professional football in Britain West in the


first instance with individual football clubs and the governing


body of sport. We support centres of excellence. The development of


coaches and partnership with the Sports Institute and a Pala network


aimed at more effective identification of talented players


-- a network end that more effective identification. I thank


the Minister for her response. Would she encourage and develop


professional football in Northern Ireland to the extent that the


cream of our young crop are encouraged to play football for


longer here in Northern Ireland before being snapped up by the


bigger clubs in England to no benefit to Northern Ireland? I have


sympathy for the member's point. Recently, if I could use my own


constituency as an example, we lost a player but Swansea gained out of


his expertise. Beating have not felt that loss. Given the result


recently! -- the team. When you invest in young players, we hope


they say. But we should not look to keep people here for the sake of


keeping them here. It is up to the Northern Ireland sport and the


clubs and the department to try to make it attractive. But if they


wish to move elsewhere, we should support their development. Would


the Minister agree with me that the recent successes of the Northern


Ireland Women's Under 17 and under 19 teams in qualifying for the


elite sector in Europe is something that this House should be proud of


and which she also joined me in wishing our national team for the


best as we take on Azerbaijan Well, his definition and mine are


different but I wish them all the best. I wish them all the best and


I agree it's important, particularly when talking about


young women in sport that every sport is helps. Encouraging and


nurturing and assisting the talent of sports people here. In an


interview, the minister said Nelson did nothing in relation to the


concerns raised by the boxing club but in a letter to the committee,


the minister was detailing the work the minister did undertake. Will


the Minister retract the statement? Well, if I have it wrong, I will


retract. The mend his free to have a copy of the transcript. The


question from Noel Thompson was accusing the Department of


institutional sectarianism from the club in boxing. My question was


what had other ministers, including Nelson McCausland done? I assume


you have a copy of it. If I am wrong I'll put it on the record and


apologise to the minister and do it in writing. I think what she is


saying it's her colleague Nelson McCausland has done something, my


question was Campbell and the other ministers who for some reason for


10 years when the allegation was made allegedly did nothing.


needs to look at the records in terms of my time as minister but I


want to ask her about the money under the boxing strategy and a


statement to this House yesterday which indicated a sandy road boxing


club would be eligible for funding because it had been affiliated in


the past three years. She appears to be saying something different to


date and something difference morning Post It Could you please


explain to us what she means? club affiliated in the last three


years can put in an expression of interest in. Any club receiving any


funding must be affiliated upon receipt of funding, that's the case.


That's what I said yes sir, this morning and today. In relation to


your own performance, you will be aware that it is not a case


ministers... If I am on the record and I am wrong, the minister's name


was not on the list of people who stood up and try to do something


about it, as minister for sport at the time. The DCAL Minister, Caral


ni Chuilin. The many achievements of athletes from Northern Ireland


were the focus of discussion in the chamber both this morning and later


this afternoon. First, the Green Party brought forward a public


petition calling on the Sports Minister to develop a new strategy


to help athletes fulfil their potential. Athletics is the Blue


Ribbon sport of the Olympics and it's an increase in sport receiving


support from all sections of society. Those behind the petition


believe insufficient support is provided by central and local


government. No strategic plan exists to develop and promote the


sport and the facilities which are available in Northern Ireland are


inadequate to meet the needs of the next generation of athletes. I


believe Northern Ireland has an ideal opportunity to capitalise on


this year's Olympic legacy to inspire a generation. Sport makes a


valuable contribution to society in terms of the enjoyment of the


participants and viewers but also in terms of the lifelong health


benefits it offers young people. The petitioners would like the


Nacewa to explore the possibility of a dedicated indoor training


facility at the current site -- the minister. It's a timely petition


given the debate on the legacy of the Paralympics but also given


yesterday's announcement the executive may find itself with


unspent capital in the near future. Well, as Steven Agnew mentioned


there, the achievements of our Paralympian athletes was the topic


of discussion this afternoon. Sinn Fein MLAs called on the Sports


Minister to secure the support of other authorities to increase


sporting opportunities for people with disabilities. The challenge


moving ahead is to create a genuine a legacy I greatly increasing the


scale of sports provision across Northern Ireland given people with


disabilities and opportunity to meet an active and healthy


lifestyles through sport without fear or of any government


department interfering. We are lucky to have teachers who gladly


give up their own time to train and mental athletes but unfortunately


so many schools have stopped because of lack of funding. To take


a pupil to Dublin to compete costs �400. We need to be concerned.


committee was disappointed at a lack of bespoke programmes in local


government and the governing bodies. The committee wrote to the minister


and departments to ascertain what more can be done individually and


collectively to continue to build on the success of the Paralympics


for a disabled athletes. Disability sport partnership approach with two


councils and four District Councils has led to the delivery of many


successful projects. Including participation projects giving 6,000


people with disability the opportunity to lead a full and


active lifestyle through sport. These projects are not offered or


delivered by other councils and that's why the committee intends to


host an informal meeting with disability sport and a sub-group to


discuss the issues in more detail. The Paralympics have raced respect


for sporting ability of disabled people are celebrating what


disabled people can do in their chosen fields. Despite a great


Paralympic, the reality is the majority of people with


disabilities in Northern Ireland simply don't get the opportunity to


participate in sport. If the legacy is to enable young people with


disability to look up to a sports person, it gives them the


encouragement to take part and the self-confidence to become involved


and in a sporting activity in they would not have become involved in.


Just to give them the confidence to participate in a sporting activity


which is usually seen to be applicable to the able-bodied


professionals rather than someone with a disability and if that's the


legacy, I think we have achieved something in this place. I would


like to talk a bit about Lawrence McGivern. A Paralympic swimmer from


County Down. He came to find his extraordinary talents in the


swimming pool through the support of the Newry Council. He has gone


on to inspire other young athletes with disabilities and there are


councils around Northern Ireland he deserves some credit, Mr Speaker,


Newry is one of them. The participation in the swimming


championships rose dramatically in the aftermath of Lawrence and


Bethany's performances. One thing I will always remember when leaving


the ceremony of the Olympic Games, going to the airport with the


billboards being posted saying thank you for the warm-up, lads and


that summed up the spirit and anticipation we help Paralympic


Games. I do believe we are in a time when we are looking to see


about what the ratepayers can get for their money. In an elegant way


he spoke about equality and rights and I am 100% behind that. It is


not either/or. Everyone should have access and there has been an


imbalance around access for people with disabilities and arts. Caral


ni Chuilin. Now, earlier in the programme we saw the Green Party


MLA, Steven Agnew, present a public petition to the Assembly about


provision for athletics. But what's the potential influence of such


petitions? Well, at the moment, the Alliance Party says they too often


get lost in the system. The party's sent a letter to the Speaker to


review the current petition process - and to tell us more, Trevor Lunn


from the party joins me now. Why it you want the issue reviewed?


think public petitions have the potential to be important in terms


of input into parliamentary business. It's a good way for the


public to raise issues. If several thousand people signed a petition


it is meaningful, at the moment they are delivered to the Assembly,


a single member gets three minutes to talk about it. It is hand to the


Speaker, it is passed to the minister and that's as far as it


goes. And you think there are models that are used in other


legislature's on these islands there would be better for Northern


Ireland? We give the Scottish and Welsh assemblies are looking at the


situation. The one we like the look of his Westminster where they have


adopted a series of the petitions. If 100,000 people signed the


petition and if it's a sensible subject, it has to be discussed at


some time. The threshold would be a lot lower than 100,000. A couple of


1000. And then you could be debating things the public are


interested in but MLAs are not. Did we elected to decide things like


that for us? If several members of the public think something is


important, it should be relevant to us. At the moment, we decide what


to discuss. Some petitions were relevant. We eventually get debates


about it but I would lead to the public being able to set the agenda.


You have written -- your colleague has written to the Speaker. Will it


be progressed? There's been an acknowledgement issue. If it is


progressed it has to go to the Committee on procedures because


they govern the standing orders of the Assembly. We will hear more in


due course. I need to ask you about these leaflets circulating in


Belfast criticising your party's alleged position on flying the


Union flag on a city hall. You are not happy. The Ulster Unionists


were responsible. What are you annoyed about? If any party was to


circulate a leaflet giving their own views about things they can do


so. When they say it is from our party and our colours, and a phone


number, invited you to contact us, making out it has come from the


Alliance Party Dunne it is done in the style, it says tell the


Alliance Party what you think. Why do it in the style of the Alliance


Party? It's an arresting image. is disgraceful politics. We are


very angry about it. I am thoroughly disappointed with the


two parties and lack of integrity and honesty. They are unrepentant.


We will see where it goes from here. An apology would be nice but I


don't think we were getting. Trevor Lunn, thank you. We all love to


talk about the weather - and so it seems do our politicians. Last week


the Environment Committee was given an update from the Met Office on


future predictions for Northern Ireland, as we can now hear in our


weekly look at committee business. You have seen this before. It is


the famous curve showing the change in global average temperatures,


temperature measurements from around the world and we take the


average in a sophisticated way. Through time, up to the present day


the green points is 2011. 0 is because we bass line Dipti pre-


industrial measurements. You can see a warming of 0.8 degrees. There


are lots of wiggles, global climate has changed and there is this


overall warming. And this information about Northern Ireland,


increased average temperatures on the 30 average, increasing rainfall,


the increased rainfall is straightforward to understand, the


atmosphere warms and it can hold more water so were the events bring


more water. It is that strip for. The headline must just a hot and


dry summers and warmer and wetter winters. A we still haven't got the


climate change act. How urgent to think we should implement this and


should be also include targets? Irrespective of all we do in future,


as the emissions continue, so of course the changes will get larger


as projections suggest. Professor Stephen Belcher from the Met Office.


If you're interested, by the way, it's going to be a wet night for


most of us! And that's it from Stormont Today for this week, but


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Mark Carruthers is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont, and is joined by key people from decision makers to opinion formers to make the experience enlightening and entertaining.