LOCAL UUP Danny Kinahan has slammed the Education Minister for the approach he has adopted in dealing with the concerns raised by groups about the Education (ESA) Bill currently before the Assembly.
Mr Kinahan, Vice-Chair of the Education Committee, said: “While I have had my own concerns about the wording of the Education Bill since it was first published, I am now being contacted by a range of people from across all education sectors and bodies who also share my concerns that the Bill at present is a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation.
“Many of these groups have presented compelling evidence to the Education Committee on what they believe are the shortfalls of the Bill.
“Unfortunately, it does not seem that the Minister is going to move to reassure people or attempt to see what improvements can be made to the Bill.”
Mr Kinahan referred to a meeting of the Education Committee last week in which members were provided with a letter from the Department addressing a number of the specific concerns of integrated schools.
“On the issue of the integrated sector having no representation on the ESA board, an issue which the Ulster Unionist Party is similarly concerned about, the response the Minister provided states that he has ‘no plans to amend the provisions on membership of ESA’ and that aside from the controlled and maintained sectors, no other ‘has such rights at present, and none are proposed for the Bill’,” Mr Kinahan said.
He added: “When I contacted every school and board of governors last year the overwhelming response I got was that firstly the Department has totally failed to communicate effectively the contents and possible consequences of this Bill.
“Secondly, there was huge concern in each of Northern Ireland’s education sectors about aspects of each section of the Bill.
“The Ulster Unionist Party will continue our fight to improve this flawed piece of legislation. We need an Education Bill that is built on what is best for the future of our children, not what is most convenient for the carve-up at the top of the Executive table.”