21/05/2013 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 in the next 30 minutes:


You can go your own way was the message from Michael Gove on


A-levels today. That wasn't the only education story making headlines.


The member has said that the department failed to listen to


schools. Well, that's partially true. It's partially true across a


number of delivery agencies within this and as minister for, in charge


of the department I have to take a certain amount of responsibility for


that. As the Shared Future document is debated Peter Robinson comes


under fire. It is unfortunate, Mr Speaker, that the hiss tarks of the


First Minister last week did sour the tone of a potentially


constructive engagement around a Shared Future document. I'm joined


by the former school principal Michelle Marken.


The cost of training teachers is almost 40% higher here than it is in


England. That's according to the Minister for Employment and


Learning, Stephen Farry. Today he delivered a statement to the


Assembly that raised questions about the future of St Mary's and


Stranmillis teacher training colleges. I outlined my concerns


that the system for training teachers in Northern Ireland was not


sustainable. To best achieve longer term improvements, it is important


that Northern Ireland has a system of teacher education that is both


financially stable and is sufficiently flexible to address the


needs of an increasingly shared society. Therefore I announce aid


two-stage study of the teacher education infrastructure in Northern


Ireland. The research completed in stage One Show that's Stranmillis


and St Mary's are the only establishments in the UK which


receive additional funding. The cost of this in 2011/12 was 2. 16


million. In the 2011/12 year the cost of training a teacher in the


colleges in Northern Ireland was almost 40% higher than in the


comparative English institutions cited in the reports. We are


spending more to train the teacher for what can be best described as an


uncertain employment market than to train an engineer. Under the current


system the cost 23,500 to train a teacher arguably we are training too


many and 21,000 to train an engineer and arguably we are training too


few. The second stage of the study of the teacher education


infrastructure in Northern Ireland will set out options for a more


shared and integrated system for the delivery and funding of teacher


education. Everything should be on the table. Matters for greater


collaboration to be considered could include services, facilities and in


particular, joint teaching. Institutionally alternative to the


current arrangements may include models such as some or all


institutions coming together through some type of confed rated


arrangement, through to a fully train training system with one or


more campuses. The colleges viable as long as student numbers are


maintained? Like other institutions, they require supportive government


policy for them to develop so St Mary's and Stranmillis become not


viable if the minister makes them unviable. Do you propose to take


such action in the face of opposition to it? I thank the member


for his questions. I'm not proposing to do anything at this stage. We are


undertaking the second stage of this review with the objective of placing


the system on a sustainable basis. Minister, the Dell committee visited


St Mary's college and were impressed with the vibrancy, commitment and


the college was very much at the heart of the community in. Terms of


the talk in the Assembly about diversity and ethos and how does the


minister square that with, in terms of sustainability and quality? What


about diversity? The other thing that came out of the discussion is


that people were telling us that they are definitely not going away.


I would pose the question back. We don't have to respect and


acknowledge diversity through the fragmentation of our teacher


education system. We want to promote sharing in both respects, but


sharing isn't about some hop odge nighed society where we treat


everyone the same. Under that umbrella we have to respect sharing


and with respect training that we embrace that range of diversity.


That can't be -- can be done in a range of formats. Tong that is the


former school principal, Michelle Marken. Thank you for joining us on


the programme. What's your reaction first of all to those figures quoted


bit minister about the cost of training teachers here? I'd like to


unpick those figures a little more. You do know that in the last number


of years there's been a liberal arts degree put into both Stranmillis and


St Mary's. Students can graduate and then go on and do a teacher


qualification. I understand that is where the extra funding comes in to


support that liberal arts degree. In the examination that the minister


has decided he's going to conduct, the second level examination, I hope


they will look at where that comes into the equation about cost. I


would argue there's value for money here. Probably very good value for


money in the quality of young teachers who come out of the


establishments. The problem that he was highlighting is that we're


training too many teachers and it costs more to train them than we're


training engineers and we need more engineers. This is true. I think


it's right that there should be an examination of costs. It should be a


five-institution examination not just focussed on two university


colleges. I think we have to argue for well educated young people


coming out, but also to keep the costs down. There are more ways than


one to do that. I would argue that the minister is doing it the right


way. He's looking for the best advice and guidance on it. Were you


surprised to hear that it costs �23 this afternoon,000 to -- �23,500 to


train a teacher? No, if you consider the number of contact hours, for


example, that a young person has when in university versus contact


hours when in teacher training, it's vastly increased. You may send your


young son to university and he may have ten, 12 contact hours a week.


But they will have more hands-on experience. What about the


unsustainable costs of running the two colleges side by side, do you


accept there's a point there? do. That has to be honestly


examined. I know that St Mary's University values highly what it


delivers to young people and to students. I think maybe that can be


replicated, perhaps there is a way forward where there is shared


education on one side, where there's a guaranteed, you know, support of


teaching, training teachers for Catholic schools. Final thought on


this apparent parting of the ways with England on A-levels. Should we


be concerned about that? I think we have to keep a cool head. I think


the minister actually is keeping a cool head. Parity is what we always


aimed for. When we put in GCSEs and A-levels in the 1980s, we worked


closely with the universities. We worked closely with our colleagues


in England to do that. We made sure that we moderated across the system.


If we lose that status, I'm not sure how we will ensure standards are


there. We'll have to do. It south of Ireland does it. Scotland does it.


We can do it too. I don't think we should panic on it. Thank you.


From university level to primary schools and John O'Dowd was next in


the spotlight, following technical details encountered by schools last


Autumn, the Education Minister commissioned a review of


computer-base add associatements. Today he brought that review to the


Assembly -- computer-based assessments. It presented


significant challenges. These challenges were faced by schools and


significant number of them reported difficulties in the operations of


the new assessment. If the department makes it a legal


requirement for schools to use the assessment this places a requirement


on my department to ensure it works. Clearly, this was not always the


case last year. A policy that was intended to help and support


teachers had, in many cases, the opposite effect. Of most concern


were the experiences relayed to me directly by teachers about the


pressures they felt in administering the assessments and in some cases


the distress felt by pupils when they faced technical difficulties.


This is clearly not good enough. That is why I have instigated


reviews of the implementations of the nukeracy -- implementations of


the numeracy and literacy assessment. User experience was


often reported as poor and there were real issues for teachers in


terms of the ease of set up and compatibility with hardware. In


recognition of the concerns expressed by schools, I have decided


the department will not specify the literacy and numeracy assessment for


monitoring use in the forth coming term. There will be no legislative


requirement on schools to assess pupils for diagnostic purposes using


CBA or other assessments. I think the most striking aspect of this


debacle isn't just the technical failures or the �900,000 spent in


the first year of public money. It wasn't just the time and energy


schools have wasted in trying to make these tests work. It isn't even


the stress and anxiety these tests have caused many of our primary


schools. I suggest that the key to the mystery is that the department


and the minister's abject failure in listening to schools and we could


say- so what? However we are in a very serious situation. Will the


minister, today, give this house an explanation as to why it took him so


long to press the delete button on computer-based assessment?


member has said the department failed to listen to schools. That's


partially true. But it's partially true across a number of delivery


agencies within this and as minister in charge of the department I have


to take a certain amount of responsibility for that. But I can


assure you now that no-one was in -- within my department, no-one in the


delivery agencies involved in this are under illusions about who they


should be listening to. They should listen to the schools and learn from


the experiences. The next programme of work rolled out in regards to


this will be based on the experiences of schools in the first


place. I welcome the U-turn on mandatory computer assessments.


Account minister tell us how much this debacle has cost and will cost?


The system set up including procurement and all the issues, to


set it up was around �900,000. Next year the costs are somewhere in the


region of �300,000 to run the system. I would have preferred to


see the system running properly all, all schools using it etc. However we


are involved in contractual obligations with the providers. If


we moved away from those obligation as head of the end of the contract,


I am advised there may be significant further cost.


Education was very much a theme at Stormont today. The leader of the


Ulster Unionist Party, Mike Nesbitt, joined in. During a debate on a


shared future he read extracts on a teaching aid used to teach students


during the hunger strikes in 1981. Discuss how the pupils would have


felt in their shoes. Discuss whether they would have made the same


decisions as the hunger strikers. Teachers could explore texts about


Northern Ireland or about other situations, for example, Nazi


Germany, South Africa, during apartheid, a clear link between


Northern Ireland and Nazi Germany and South Africa under apartheid.


Explore other sources, cow read of the factual writings from the time


of the hunger strikes. Now I thought maybe at this point they would


suggest a journalist of some repute, or perhaps an historian of the


stature of Paul Lord Bute. The first individual they recommend? For


factual descriptions, Danny Morrison, the chief prop beganedist


of the -- propegand ist of the Republican movement. Mike Nesbitt


during the debate on the Shared Future document. Following that


debate a DUP supported amendment to the Alliance Motion was passed. It


backed the station by the first and deputy first ministers on building a


united community in Northern Ireland. Here's a sample of the


debate. Despite reports of progress and some level of agreement from the


office of First Minister and deputy First Minister, a failure to find


compromise on contested issues at a political level has left many


disillusioned and disengaged. We have to set out a vision and a plan


to tackle all unsettled issues that remain. Patterns of segregation,


intimidation and fear that all continue to have a serious impact on


our economy and the quality of life of people across Northern Ireland.


Perhaps I could begin by explaining why we're unable to support the


motion, as brought forward by the members of the Alliance Party. It's


very simple. There is no mention in the motion of the lack of prior


consultation between FM and DFM and their executive colleagues, which, I


find, almost inexplicable given a few short days ago their party


leader was jumping on my colleague Danny Kennedy's band wagon on BBC


television to make much of the fact there had been no consultation with


executive colleagues. Yet a few days later, they seemed to have moved


from the tribe of -- tribe to the so whatters. We will never shirk our


responsibilities in terms of scrutinising projects like this and


asking what sometimes might be viewed as tough questions. But


they're asked to try and ensure that we get the best possible Government


and the best possible chance to build a Shared Future for all our


people because God knows we need it. It is unfortunate, Mr Speaker, that


the hi -- hysterics soured the tone over the Shared Future document. It


did confirm one thing: Peter Robinson seems to be stuck in an old


testament world when people out there are desperately crying out for


something new. I hear the party basically saying- we weren't


included in the discussions. I heard them saying this announcement was


made without consultation with themselves or consultation with


anybody else. Well, that party has had a week to be able to say


actually, we don't like the Shared Future details because it doesn't go


far enough or whatever the criticism might be. Maybe some of the


criticism is justified. They need to put options on the table. It's not


enough, I want to make it clear from our party's point of view, it is


simply not good enough for the SDLp to come here and say they're here to


ask tough questions. We're all here to ask tough questions. What a


remarkable impact a pending visit of President Obama can have that


suddenly, whatever it takes to please in terms of social


engineering is possible. Be it housing, be it education, be


whatever is on the shopping list and the instruction list of the visiting


president. Can I begin by welcoming the statement last week and it's not


surprising that all of the naysayers have had their go around so just to


put Mr Swan's mind at rest from the very start, we will not be with


drawing our amendment and we will be putting it to the vote. Just let


me... Just let me be clear about that so that you know right from the


very start, and I see the chair of the OFM doing his usual act, one or


two headline grabbing things, producing some document today, but


that's typical of the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. So nobody


will be surprised about that. Spratt. The Justice Minister has


told the Assembly he expects work on the long awaited police and fire


college near cooks down to start in October. -- Cookstown. He revealed


details for the G8 summit and the future for the historical inquiries


team. Comments were provided back to the


programme team for its consideration. If these points are


adequately addressed and both departments are satisfied that the


college represents value for money it will be submitted for approval.


The reality is we are looking at a relatively short slippage in the


time to complete the work. The delay is currently being looked at in a


period of something like four months with an expectation that


construction can begin by the month of October. So given the very


significant cost change, I believe that's hay fairly reasonable


position to be in and I'm optimistic that can be adhered to. PSNI and


plans for security for the G8 are at an advanced state. It has been


decided that some 4700 PSNI officer and 3600 officers under mutual aid


arrangements will be deployed. All the officers will be under the


direction and operational command of the Chief Constable throughout in.


Addition, 600 private security personnel will be contracted to work


on security-related duties during the summit. I'm confident there will


be sufficient human resources in place to ensure a successful summit


and any protests would be well policed. Other areas within my


department are developing plans to deal with any arrests. In the -- I'm


confident there will be sufficient human resources in place to deal


with any evengeuality. Can I ask the minister what assurances can he give


to former members of the royal Royal Ulster Constabulary who hold a


except -- sceptical view over all of this happening. If former members of


the RUC or PSNI hold that view of the HET I'm not sure that anything I


say will counteract that feeling that they have. Certainly what I


have seen of the HET in particular in terms of looking through the


business case for the extension of its work has shown that it is


robustly carrying out its duties. Wonder if the minister would take


the opportunity to assure the House that the HET has the necessary


funding to be able to complete its programmed work and that its


operational independence will not be jeopardised in any way by means of


the way it is funded? I thank him for that point. The business case


for the extension of HET funding was approved by my department last


month, subject to further conditions being met. That will then result in


a potential extension of �13 million to its existing budget aloe


indication. The secondary -- allegation. The secondary intention


is that the case load will be completed bit end of March 2015 on a


completion rate of 30 cases per month. David Ford. It's been some


time coming but the Marine Bill passed through its final stage at


the Assembly today. The bill is designed to coordinate the


protection of Northern Ireland's coastline and the wildlife that


lives there. Is that enough? I'm joined by Marguerite Tarzia from the


Marine Task Force. Good evening. First of all, remind us what the


Marine Task Force is. It's a coalition of ten environmental


organisations and we've been campaigning on marine issues for


quite a while. It's a ten-year campaign, specifically related to


mat reen bill. We are very -- the Marine Bill. We are very pleased to


see it here again. The legislation go far enough? There are some


disappointments with it. Before we go through the disappointing sides I


think the Marine Task Force is thrilled that we have this


legislation in place because it is a new legal framework for managing our


seas, for conservation and marine planning. In terms of the things


that we would like to have seen in it, there are some things that we


think are missing, moat -- most note yaebl a marine organisation, and we


campaigned that it would help the governance for marine matters in


Northern Ireland. The matters are distributed across five departments


in Northern Ireland. That's a lot of departments to make coordinated


decisions on marine issues. So we think that a marine management


organisation would really help. campaigned strongly for the agency,


it's not there. You say you're disappointed. Is that going to make


a huge difference? You've said that's the downside, there are plus


points as well. Are the plus points outweighed bit negative dimension of


net getting the management agency? think that's going to be an issue


which will be ongoing. Obviously with the Marine Bill, now it's


becoming an act, there are going to be important decisions to be made in


terms of the marine kon conservation zones and mat reen planning, which


is cross sectors. Will need a lot of buy-in from people. I think issues


will arise throughout the implementation of this bill that


will make it evident that marine governance needs to be resolved.


an example of what will be better with the new legislation. It gives


us the opportunity to designation marine kon conservation zones. Up


till now we only have European marine sites and areas of special


scientific interest. Also sites designated for wetlands. We haven't


got that many protected areas, even though the European sites are


important. The conservation zones will let us designate sites for


protection for a range of different species that are representative of


the UK marine area. That's good for the species that live in our coastal


waters? Yes, very good for the species. We can cover more species,


more habitats and protect more. Marguerite Tarzia, thanks very much


indeed for joining us. Now, into the West was very much the


theme for questions to the Regional Development Minister this afternoon


with the A 5 and roads even a possible railway line in Fermanagh


on the agenda. First up was the troubled bridge at Narrow Water.


There's been no delay in the part of my department. Every effort has been


made to progress these necessary orders. Understand of -- information


was only finalised on April 10, 2013. I should say that in Northern


Ireland the construction of a bridge over waters quite rightly requires


legislation. Loudge County Council only requires consent of the


minister. We met the QPA yesterday in relation to the delay in the A5


and they're concerned about the delay. They're concerned about the


moratorium on the roads, which is 11 days, I think it's ten or 11 days


prior to the G8. A decision that the previous Minister of Justice told us


half an hour ago that you took. the issue that he raises on G8


moratorium, he will know, as a constituency representative for the


area of countery Fermanagh and indeed as a member of this House and


deputy chair of the regional development committee, that G8 is a


very significant and important event for all of Northern Ireland and I'm


very pleased to offer my department's support to the PSNI in


managing arrangements for the summit. So at the request of the


PSNI, DRD has agreed to reprogramme planned works on key routes during


the G8. The department has brought forward a considerable amount of


resurfacing work to improve the road network in the run up to the G8. My


colleague Mr Elliott was telling me some of the locals in Fermanagh


instead of calling it the A 4 road now call it the G8 road. Is there


any further evaluation or assessment into developing a rail network into


the west of Northern Ireland? grateful to the member for his


question and indeed, he will know that we have recently been holding a


consultation exercise on the future of railways all over Northern


Ireland. We've had very interesting feed back. Even in my own area,


significant feed back on the possibility of a reopening the old


lines. Indeed, the line that he mentions mentioned, there are issues


of infrastructure and cost. We would have to look carefully before we


would embark on even a serious study. The Regional Development


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.

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