Thursday, 13 October 2011

Education Minister John O'Dowd's Twitter Q&A - Transcript of questions and answers

Education Minister John O'Dowd has taken part in the Northern Ireland Executive's first live Twitter Q&A.
Minister O'Dowd answered 26 questions over an hour on a range of topics. The full transcript of the Q&A is available below.
Q&A Transcript
From @niexecutive - Education Minister John O'Dowd up next to answer questions. Just arriving from a visit to Wellington College, Belfast #AskDE
Question 1 - from @ColininNI  
#askDE to what extent will the review announced recently include the efficiency of maintaining 5 ELBs?
Answer - @ColininNI Viability audit does not include Boards. I aim to replace Boards and other bodies with single Education & Skills Authority #AskDE
Question 2 - from @boo50hoo
@niexecutive #AskDE Why did Mr O'Dowd not brief the Education Boards before his speech two weeks ago. The SELB is not following his criteria
Answer - @boo50hoo All ELBs were briefed on day of speech. Terms of ref for audit will be on DE website soon #AskDE
Question 3 – from @nbonnes
#AskDE In the minister's opinion what would be the ideal model for the Randalstown/Ballymena post-primary provision?
Answer - @nbonnes the area planning process will identify proposals for all areas including Randalstown. I await proposals from ELBs #AskDE
Question 4 – from @collapsibubble
Will you consider removing compulsory xian religious participation from schools? Schools should educate and churches preach. #AskDE
Answer - @collapsibubble Schools deliver core RE topics, add to them as per ethos. Parents can withdraw children from RE classes if they wish #AskDE
Question 5 – from @Kilsally
#AskDE Does the minister foresee a move to a single education system for all to foster reconciliation and to save money? @1schoolthought
Answer - @Kilsally Better planning and greater sharing will promote reconciliation and efficiency #AskDE
Question 6 - from @Gary_NI
@niexecutive my mum is a substitute teacher with 25yrs experience in full time teaching. Is she now considered past her use by date? #AskDE
Answer - @Gary_NI Most certainly not, we value all our teaching staff #AskDE
Question 7 – from @MrMalcontent
@JohnODowdSF so, did you have a look at how some teachers are willing to do their own CPD in NI? #tmbelfast #askDE
Answer- @MrMalcontent CPD, and teacher education in general, is currently under review - see link #AskDE
Question 8 - from @derd28
@JohnODowdSF #AskDE when are you going to sort this transfer test mess out? Despicable the level of stress put on children. Action needed!
Answer - @derd28 Transfer policy requires no tests. Many good schools do not use academic selection #AskDE
Question 9 - from @Wiseabap
Time to end schools inherent homophobia and their exemption from equality duties Minister O'Dowd #askDE @niexecutive
Answer - @Wiseabap Homophobia is unacceptable. See this link to see how we are tackling it #AskDE
Question 10 - from @bradleyea
 #askDE what will you do to support & expand integrated sector? Not mow a regional option for many who would like to choose it.
Answer - @bradleyea I support parental choice in selection of schools for children, recognise value of Int sector along with all sectors #AskDE
Question 11 - from @rickyp119
Protestant schls don't teach GAA. Catholic schls dont teach cricket. Do U think more could be done to increase cultural...
Answer - @rickyp119 I don’t want to name names, schools decide. I accept your point but schools have flexibility and I want to preserve that #AskDE
Question 12 - from @rickyp119
Do you think GCSEs have now been devalued to the point of being meaningless? #askde
Answer - @rickyp119 Most definitely not #AskDE
Question 13 - from @jasonfisher6
 #ASKDE Minister prove that this audit is not a numbers game and you're not targeting the most vulnerable with most to lose
Answer - @Jasonfisher6 the criteria were laid out in my speech. Terms of ref public soon #AskDE
Question 14 - from @jasonfisher6
#ASKDE @niexecutive why are you allowing the SEELB to prevent Ballykeigle primary school from getting a new principal?
Answer - @Jasonfisher6 Appointment of principal is a matter for the SEELB. Principal is in place in Ballykeigle PS on a shared arrangement #AskDE
Question 15 - from @kiplisburn
#AskDE @JohnOdowdSF how does the minister plan to solve the problem of lack of jobs for NQTs?
Answer - @kiplisburn Assembly recently endorsed motion on difficulties faced by newly qualified teachers in gaining employment. Details here on niassembly website
Question 16 - from @kiplisburn
#AskDE what can be done to solve the problem of nursery place shortages? Many parents offered places far from home.
Answer - @kiplisburn I am currently studying the findings of a review #AskDE
Question 17 - from @kiplisburn
#AskDE Will politicians come to an agreement on the way forward with regards to post primary transfer? What is the next step?
Answer - @kiplisburn I am seeking political agreement on the way forward #AskDE
Question 18 - from @redriding
 Could I please #askDE the minister if he is aware of the proposals currently in process with a view to the closure of...
Answer - @redriding this issue would be better dealt with by letter as you have raised several concerns. DM me your details #AskDE
Question 19 - from @nocuts2011
#askDE. What has happened to the £250 that workers who earn under £21000pa were supposed to get?
Answer - @nocuts2011 we are working with DFP to resolve this #AskDE
Question 20 - from @helenhamill
school inspections are announced? they don't reflect reality of day to day provision. drop-in effective measure. tool? #askDE
Answer - @helenhamill All inspection matters are kept under review. The day to day work of a school is monitored via District Inspector visits #AskDE
Question 21 - from @kylep77
 #askDE @niexecutive In cases of school closures, will Mr O’Dowd be able to reallocate those teachers who are left jobless?
Answer - @kylep77 I am engaging with stakeholders to help address challenges #AskDE
Question 22 - from @ransom_stoddard
 Why is more money spent on maintaining grammar school standards rather than improving standards at the lower end #askDE
Answer - @ranson_stoddard Grammars not funded more than other schools. Schools with greater challenges given additional support #AskDE
Question 23 – from @davidwkerr
Does the Minister think post-primary education should allow children to pursue vocational subjects from 14yrs rather than academic? #AskDE
Answer - @davidwkerr The Entitlement Framework allows children to choose #AskDE
Question 24 - from @helenhamill
INSET is very costly and schools have use SEN budget to provide assistants. So teachers may have no INSET. Enforceable #askDE
Answer - @helenhamill New SEN resource file free to every school in Learning NI. Detailed info on teaching SEN based on outstanding practice #AskDE
Question 25 - from @davidwkerr
Education systems in other EU countries is there one system the Minister admires more than any other & we cld learn from? #AskDE
Answer - @davidwkerr I wish to create a system other EU states admire #AskDE
Question 26 - from @jsni
 With your background as a culinary expert - What 3 people would you have to your dinner party? #AskDe
Answer - @jsni I would like to invite Muhammad Ali, Billy Connolly and Michael Palin #AskDE
From @niexecutive - That’s it for John O’Dowd’s live Q&A. We hope you found it useful and engaging. Thanks for all the Qs, sorry if yours wasn’t answered. #AskDE

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Twitter Q&A - Submit your question directly to the Education Minister

Education Minister John O’Dowd will be live on Twitter at 3pm on Thursday 13 October answering your questions.

You can submit your question now via the hashtag #AskDE. The deadline for submitting questions is 2pm Thursday 13.

The Minister will respond to as many education-related questions as time permits via the @niexecutive Twitter feed.

If you are not able to be online at 3pm on Thursday to see the responses live, don’t worry. All responses will remain on the @niexecutive timeline and under the hashtag #AskDE.

So if you have a question for the Minister, please do submit it via #AskDE and the Minister will do his best to respond.

How the Twitter Q&A will work...

Minister O'Dowd will retweet the question he plans to answer and then tweet his response and so on.

The complete transcript of questions and the Minister's responses will be posted here.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Get on Board

By Carál Ní Chuilín MLA Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure

Over the next few weeks my officials will be running a number of public appointment competitions for the boards of some of my Department’s arm’s length bodies. These bodies are responsible for delivering a range of services on behalf of Government across my Department’s area of responsibility, from supporting the arts sector to supporting the development of grass roots sport.

I believe that it is important for the bodies to become more representative of all sections of our community and have board members with a range of skills and experience. I would like to particularly encourage women, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and people with a background in the community/voluntary sector to give their time to this valuable and rewarding public service, as these groups are currently under-represented.

I know from personal experience that there are a lot of people out there with the skills and ability to make a really positive contribution to the work of our boards, but they don’t apply because they feel that these positions are reserved for people from a specific socio-economic group. I am keen to dispel that myth.

I would encourage people not to assume that because, for example, they are working in the voluntary/community sector that they will not have the skills to be an effective board member. The types of skills that are required include: communication, planning and an analytical mind to challenge and debate how best to provide services to the public. Skills and experience developed in the voluntary/community sector could be put to good use on the boards of DCAL’s arm’s length bodies. Formal training will also be provided for any new board members.

Representation from a diverse range of people will be beneficial for the bodies, but will also be very rewarding for the individuals themselves. I know that Rosemary Kelly has found her experience as Chairman of the Arts Council very rewarding. Rosemary recently said

“When my term as Chairman comes to an end later this year, I will look back on my time spent, along with Board colleagues, serving the Arts Sector with some pride. The Board represents a wide range of professions and experience that has made a significant difference to the strategic development of arts and art practice here.  We have given a lot during that time but got back even more through the meaningful and rewarding work."

It is good to reflect on the part we played in exciting projects like the redevelopment of the Grand Opera House, the Ulster Hall, the Lyric Theatre, and Cultúrlann in Belfast, as well as The Playhouse and Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin in Derry/Londonderry; and of course we still have the opening of the new Metropolitan Arts Centre to look forward to early next year.  These projects will provide venues for a wide range of programmes, including many community based arts projects and outreach activities. They, along with many other projects, will help to shape the Arts and society here for generations to come. I would have no hesitation in encouraging people to give their time in a similar public service role on one of DCAL’s bodies.”

These positions provide an opportunity for individuals to shape how government services are delivered and have an input into important decision making. For example on the Board of NI Screen you could play a key role in helping to attract major TV and film productions such as HBO’s Game of Thrones to set up here. This work boosts our local economy and creates job in this growing sub-sector of the creative industries. As a board member of Sport NI you could play a key role in major projects to provide or improve sporting facilities and to increase opportunities for people to engage in sporting activities.  As a board member of the NI Museums Council you could play a leading role in the development and provision of a vibrant independent museums sector. It’s also an exciting time for the Arts Council as the considerable investment in arts infrastructure takes hold.

The competitions for NI Screen, the Arts Council, Sport NI and the NI Museums Council are currently open for applications. Information packs and application forms will be available on DCAL’s website Public Appointments page for each competition.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Sports Minister attends international match at Windsor Park

The Minister for Sport, Carál Ní Chuilín, has attended the Northern Ireland versus Faroe Islands International Match at Windsor Park.

At the Irish Football Association (IFA) match, Minister Ní Chuilín said: "When I came into office I said that I would be a Minister for all cultures and all sports. Given this, and the fact that a significant section of our community support and participate in IFA organised games, and the IFA receives significant DCAL funding, it only proper that I would come along here tonight."

The football match is the team's crucial Euro 2012 qualifying game.

Speaking after the game, which finished 4 -0 the Minister said "It was a new experience and I enjoyed the game.  Congratulations to the team in securing the win that now takes them to 3rd spot in their qualifying group.

"I would like to wish them well for the remainder of their fixtures in the Euro 2012 competition and particularly in their next game against Serbia here in September."

The Minister said:  "In the past Windsor Park has been the scene of sectarian singing and chanting and I recognise the very real efforts that have been made by the IFA to tackle sectarianism at their matches and I hope my attendance here this evening contributes further to that effort.  I look forward to working with the IFA in providing inclusion for all; we still have some way to go despite work done to date.

"I look forward to the redevelopment of Windsor Park to ensure it continues to meet the strategic needs of the IFA and the team."

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Robinson and McGuinness congratulate Clarke

First Minister Rt Hon Peter D. Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP MLA have congratulated Darren Clarke on becoming the 2011 Open Golf Champion.

Mr Robinson said: "Darren's win at Royal St George's today is one of golf's greatest achievements. There is simply no more deserving or popular a winner than Darren. I along with all the people of Northern Ireland would like to congratulate him on becoming the Open Champion.

"Scotland may be the spiritual home of golf but Northern Ireland is unquestionably home to the world's best golfers. I once again would say to the golfing world to come to Northern Ireland to see for themselves why we are the home of golf's champions."

Mr McGuinness said: "It is simply staggering to think that we have produced yet another major winner. Only a matter of a few weeks ago we were congratulating Rory McIlroy on winning the US Open and today we are able to congratulate Dungannon's Darren Clarke on becoming the Open Champion.

"I cannot think of anyone who deserved to win a major more than Darren has. Over the course of the past four days and throughout his career Darren has conducted himself with a grace and quiet determination that is nothing short of outstanding. He is a tremendous ambassador and role model and it is fitting that like Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington he has now achieved the glory of being 'a major winner."

Foster congratulates Darren Clarke

Tourism Minister Arlene Foster has congratulated golfer Darren Clarke on winning the Open Championship.

Arlene Foster said: "Darren Clarke's stunning victory at the Open Championship at Royal St George's has once again put Northern Ireland firmly in the centre of the media spotlight for all the right reasons.

"Throughout his career, Darren has been an excellent ambassador for Northern Ireland and his success at the 140th Open is a well-deserved reward for years of hard work and dedication to his sport.

"During interviews that were broadcast all over the world this week, Darren has talked about how playing at Royal Portrush has been the perfect preparation for links golf at the very top level - and he is right. 

"Our golf courses are among the best in the world and our three Major winners - Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, and now Darren Clarke, have proven that Northern Ireland is the top golfing destination.

"I am determined that we will continue to showcase our golf tourism offering all over the world, because we have so much to be proud of."

Ni Chuilin congratulates Clarke on Open win

Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin said: "This is a truly deserved win for Darren who has shown great character over the last few days. I offer him many congratulations.

"This has been a tremendous 14 months for local golf with Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy both winning Major championships. After a truly brillant performance over the last four days in what at times were dreadful conditions  Darren Clarke held his nerve to win. Well done Darren. And with Padraig Harrington's name already on this claret jug in recent years, this is superb for local golf."

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Robinson and McGuinness condemn rioting

First Minister Rt Hon Peter D. Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP, MLA have today condemned the violence at a number of flashpoints last night and appealed for calm.

Mr Robinson said: "As a government we are working together to ensure that Northern Ireland prospers and grows in strength. It is saddening to see Ulster in the international news for all the wrong reasons. Those involved in last night's violence and rioting provide nothing to society. Those manipulating the violence will not win. The overwhelming majority are determined to move forward."

Mr McGuinness said: "I visited Ardoyne on Monday and met with local people, community and church leaders. They made it very clear to me that they did not want to see any violence in their community over the Twelfth parade. It is disappointing that a small number of people chose to ignore their demand and instead went about attacking the police and damaging the local community. There were also a number of other violent incidents in Derry, Ballymena and Armagh."

The Ministers confirmed that they will be meeting in Stormont Castle tomorrow to discuss the recent violence and added: "Those involved in rioting must realise that it only results in damaging their local community. We would appeal for calm and ask everyone to think of the consequences of their actions." 

Thursday, 7 July 2011

McCausland restates his concerns about maintenance contracts

Housing Minister Nelson McCausland has restated his serious concerns over Housing Executive maintenance contracts.

The Minister said; "My concern all along has been to ensure tenants, whose homes are included in these contracts, continue to receive the high standard of service they are entitled to, and that taxpayers money is well spent. 

"I continue to have concerns about how maintenance contracts have been managed. I raised these concerns at the Executive meeting, and they are shared by Executive colleagues. I am also concerned about how the Housing Executive has dealt with this whole issue.

"My Department has commenced the forensic investigation into contracts which I announced on 1 July. The outcome of these investigations will determine if further action needs to be taken to ensure best use is made of public money.

"My preference is for an open and transparent contracts process rather than reassign the Red Sky contracts to adjacent contractors. I have been advised that the Administrator cannot provide assurances that he can maintain the existing contract until a new procurement exercise is completed. 

"I have also noted the position of the Housing Executive, which has provided my Department with some information regarding the reassignment of the contracts from Red Sky. I am, however, awaiting further clarification from the Housing Executive on the TUPE arrangements regarding the Red Sky employees and have asked for confirmation that robust and appropriate contract monitoring arrangements will be put in place.

"Taking all this additional information into account, reassignment of the contracts due to expire on 14 July is not the ideal option, but the only practical approach under current circumstances. I have written in these terms to the Chairman of the Housing Executive."

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster responds to OFCOM report on broadband speeds

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has said the recent OFCOM report on broadband speeds does not fully reflect the services available in Northern Ireland, which currently has the best superfast provision in the UK.
 The Minister said: "Almost £50 million has been invested in the telecommunications infrastructure as part of the Next Generation Broadband Project, which involved the introduction of new technology to increase broadband speeds, primarily for businesses users, across all of Northern Ireland - including Fermanagh.
 "The OFCOM report notes that Northern Ireland has the best superfast broadband services in the UK but omits this from the broadband speeds in the report. I will be writing to OFCOM to express my disappointment that the Report makes this important omission.
"Over the past 18 months, the Next Generation Broadband Project has seen BT invest nearly £29.8million in Northern Ireland's telecommunications infrastructure, with a further £16.5million coming from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI), and the EU under the ERDF Competitiveness Programme of £10.5million was invested in rural areas and £6million in urban areas. Also £1.5million has been invested from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) under the EU ERADF Rural Development Programme. This has attracted a further investment from DARD and DETI totalling some £2million.
 "OFCOM notes that the report does not include superfast broadband users in their data on speeds nor does it include radio, mobile or satellite broadband services all of which my department has made investments in to ensure everyone can get a basic broadband service across Northern Ireland. OFCOM advise that consumers should check with their Internet Service Provider to see if their speeds can be improved.
Arlene Foster added: "Our telecoms infrastructure is a tremendous asset for Northern Ireland which, can increase productivity and improve the competitiveness of the economy as a whole. Superfast services are highly available and I would certainly encourage consumers to switch.
"More can always be done and earlier this week I announced a further £500,000 of funding to support broadband technology trials and provision of access to high speed commercial services in rural areas.
"While the average speed of 4.3 Mbps for Fermanagh quoted in the report exceeds the minimum speeds being sought by the UK government under the Broadband UK project, we are working with them to ensure higher broadband services are delivered as widely as possible. In fact, the average speeds quoted for all of Northern Ireland exceed the 2Mbps target. I have consistently lobbied the Department for Culture, Media and Sports and BDUK to ensure that Northern Ireland gets its fair share of funding under this initiative to ensure higher speed broadband services are services are delivered as widely as possible.
Arlene Foster went on to say she had lobbied OFCOM on a number of occasions about the quality and coverage of mobile services in County Fermanagh and other rural areas of Northern Ireland.
The Minister added: "My Department has recently responded to an OFCOM consultation on proposals for auction in 2012 of spectrum considered critical to the efficient delivery of mobile services. My stance on this is clear - OFCOM must address regional disparity in access to 3G services by setting coverage requirements which are specific to Northern Ireland."

Robinson and McGuinness welcome Rory McIlroy to Stormont Castle, 30 Jun 11

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Statement from OFMDFM on issues raised by Victims Commission

First Minister the Rt. Hon Peter D Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP, MLA have today written to Acting Chair of the Commission for Victims and Survivors, Brendan McAllister.

In their letter, the First Minister and deputy First Minister express their disappointment that Mr McAllister did not seek a meeting with them in relation to concerns over what he described as ‘pressure points’ in the victims sector, before going public on the issue.

The Ministers go on to say that they have always been happy to facilitate meetings with the Commission and they have extended an invitation to Mr McAllister and his fellow Commissioners to meet with them to discuss their issues of concern. 

 to editors:

1. Over the last three years £36million has been allocated to Victims and Survivors, while a further £50million has been set aside for allocation during the 2011-15 CSR period.

2. Specifically in relation to support for individual victims and survivors, the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund received a total budget allocation of £4.4million in 2010-11. We are working to ensure that the fund’s budget for 2011/12, a further £3million, can be released in early July.

3. To date, under the new schemes which opened in November, awards have been issued to almost 2,500 successful applications. This amounts to a value of £3.6million. 

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Robinson and McGuinness condemn bomb attack

First Minister Rt Hon Peter D. Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP MLA have condemned today's bomb attack in Derry/Londonderry.

Mr Robinson said: "This bomb was deliberately placed in one of the busiest areas of the city and was designed to murder innocent people as they shopped on a Saturday afternoon. The perpetrators of this disgusting attack have no regard for human life. Indeed if it were not for the vigilance of the security forces we could have been faced with a far greater tragedy this afternoon.

"The people of Londonderry and of Northern Ireland have made it clear in our recent elections that they have no wish to return to the dark days of the past. There is no support for those who wish to destroy and divide us with this type of evil and callous attack. They will not succeed."

Mr McGuinness said: "This afternoon's attack in the centre of Derry was carried out by people who have no mandate from anyone. Those who carried it out need to realise that such an attack only hardens our resolve to ensure that peace survives and continues to flourish.

"The people of Derry have worked hard to build a city that is peaceful and inclusive. Their hard work will not be undone by today's mindless act."

Ford condemns bomb in Derry

Justice Minister David Ford has today condemned those responsible for a bomb attack in Shipquay Street in Derry.
David Ford said: "This bomb was left in the centre of a shopping area on a Saturday afternoon as people were going about their normal business. It is an attack on the local community and I condemn it wholeheartedly.
"I want to thank the police for their swift actions in clearing the area. This bomb could clearly have caused death or serious injury so it is a great relief that no-one was injured as a result of these wreckless actions.
"I urge anyone with any information to bring it to the police."

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Justice Minister condemns murder of police officer

The Minister, who has been briefed by the Chief Constable and spoken to Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter, has said that people across Ireland will be sickened by the killing of the officer.

David Ford said: "Firstly my thoughts and prayers are with the family of the police officer and I send my condolences to them.

"This brutal murder will be condemned without reservation across the political spectrum and will shock and sicken people both North and South .

"Those responsible for the murder have nothing to offer the people of Northern Ireland but heartache and suffering.

"They represent no-one and yet have today murdered in a cowardly and ultimately pointless way a man who was drawn from this community and was serving this community, merely because of the service he was providing. I know the disgust and hurt many will feel at this act and would ask anyone with information which could bring those responsible to justice to tell the PSNI immediately."

Robinson and McGuinness condemn murder

First Minister Rt Hon Peter D Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP MLA have condemned this afternoon's murder of a policeman as cowardly and evil.

Mr Robinson said: "The murder of a young catholic policeman newly recruited to the PSNI is shocking and deplorable. To plant a bomb under the car of a defenceless policeman is the type of cowardly act of murder that we had hoped we had seen the last of. This attack is intended to deter young catholics from joining the police and I urge them not to be deterred by those who have nothing to offer our society.

"Those who perpetrated this act hoped to destabilise our community in the run up to the local elections in May. I would like to take this opportunity to send them a very clear message; the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland are stronger today than they have been at any other time in our history. The people of Northern Ireland have rejected violence and this act will not further the cause of dissidents one iota.

"I would like to offer the officer's family and loved ones my deepest condolences, my thoughts and prayers are with them all."

Mr McGuinness: "My thoughts and prayers are foremost with the family, friends and colleagues of this young police officer.

"In joining the PSNI this young man sought to protect and serve the community; to be part of defining a better future for us all.

"Whoever carried out this act offer nothing to the community and have no role to play in our future. They have betrayed the community and set themselves against the will of the people of Ireland. No cause is served by this act and let no excuse be acknowledged."

"While those behind this act seek to promote division and conflict let us state clearly, they will fail. The process of peace building will continue and the community is united in rejection of them."