Monday, 29 October 2012

#AskDE Twitter Q&A - Transcript of questions and answers

Education Minister John O'Dowd has taken part in his second Twitter Q&A.

Minister O'Dowd answered 29 questions over an hour on a range of topics. The full transcript of the Q&A is available below.

Question 1 from @he4therw4t5on

#AskDE ask the minister if he would instruct DE to actually ask teachers,principals,schools what they need? #valueourprofessionalism

#AskDE ETI chief inspector highlighted leadership as an area 4 improvement in schools.why is support 4 heads so poor in NI? #keytosuccess


@he4therw4t5on Primary Teaching Principal Release Time also allows two days/week to focus on leadership, management & admin duties #AskDE

Question 2 from @Gary_NI

Why are pupils still being segregated? This is bad economics and anything but a shared future. #AskDE


@Gary_NI Parents have right to state type of ed they wish for their child, faith-based or not. Schools provision based on demand #AskDE

Question 3 from @cas_ni lists 750+ programming jobs weekly. What will the Minister do to increase Computer Science in schools #askDE


@cas_ni I’m keen for pupils to have access to computer science. Curriculum gives schools flexibility to provide it if demand exists #AskDE

Question 4 from @the_pj88

@niexecutive ca bhfuil na postanna do muinteoiri nua? Ta mo chailin ag fanacht bliain go leith ar la oibre amhain i scoil ar bith. #askde

Translation - Where are the jobs for new teachers? My girlfriend is waiting a year and a half and hasn’t had a day’s work in any school.


@the_pj88 Plean le múinteoirí nua-cháilithe a fhostú le cur le litearthacht agus uimhearthacht á phlé. Eolas ón RO gan mhoill #ASkDE

Translation - Details of plan to employ newly qualified teachers to boost literacy and numeracy being worked out. DE will advise ASAP

Question 5 from @AaronECarson

Why is the Dickson plan in Lurgan being altered what's the benefits of joining 3 good schools. Surely teachers will lose jobs #AskDE


@AaronECarson Area planning will point way forward. No decisions made yet, consultation open until tomorrow: #AskDE

Question 6 from @he4ther4t5on

#askde ask the minister y there hasnt been enough progress towards"integrated"education in NI?good friday agreement #sharedorsharedoutfuture


@he4therw4t5on I support parental choice and will aim to provide integrated schools where demand is clear #AskDE

Question 7 from @EFCCG

#AskDE What role can social enterprise play in generating entrepreneurs that contribute to local economy whilst still in education?


@EFCCG Social enterprise important part of economy & pupils can learn Business Studies to encourage entrepreneurship from young age #AskDE

Question 8 from @Glenbhoy67

#AskDE-John, what steps will you take to assist newly qualified teachers in obtaining necessary teaching experience/employment?


@glenbhoy I’m keen to give new teachers as much support as poss. We have cut pay for retirees as subs & continue to explore options #AskDE

Question 9 from @AndreaGibson7

#AskDE How do you envisage funding future research in youth work? How can effective academic programmes be developed without research?


@andreagibson Youth work integral part of education. New policy open for consultation now, share your views at #AskDE

Question 10 from @stephenpglenn
What does the Minister intend to do to prevent homophobic bullying in our schools? #AskDE


@stephenpglenn Homophobic bullying is wrong. ALL bullying is wrong. Every school must have a policy on tackling it.

Question 11 from @the_pj88

#askde why haven't you regulated uniform pricing? Passing buck onto boards of governors while families suffer is not good enough. Act now.


@the_pj88 DE guidance clear: schools should consider VFM & not disadvantage pupils from poorer backgrounds by overpricing uniforms #AskDE

follow up question to 11 from @the_pj88

@niexecutive I appreciate that, but when they are flouting the guidance to the extent they are, you can't just say "we tried" #askde


@the_pj88 If guidance continues to be ignored then I will look at introducing legislation to curb uniform costs #AskDE

Question 12 from @jamesconolly16

@niexecutive #AskDe why is the bible taught in primary schools when there is no evidence to support its teachings?


@JamesConnolly16 RE teaches children about various religions, helping them respect cultural diversity and form own spiritual views #AskDE

Question 13 from @Wiseabap

#askde - why no mention of international youth work in the draft 'Priorities for Youth' policy? Huge learning comes from intl experiences


@Wiseabap I recognise value of international youth work opportunities and think these should continue #AskDE

Question 14 from @murraybarry

#AskDE a chara, an aithníonn tú go bhfuil an-obair ag dul ar aghaidh in Airneal na Gaelscoilíochta, an réiteach fad-téarma iad sruthanna?

Translation - Dear sir/madam, do you realise that there is great work going on in the Irish-medium sector, are (Irish-medium) streams the long term solution?


@murraybarry tá mé tiomanta don ghaeloideachas & pléifidh mé le moltaí forbartha do scoileanna, sruthanna no aonaid #AskDE

Translation - I am committed to delivering education through medium of Irish & will consider proposals for schools, streams or units

Question 15 from @theslabber

#AskDE Is it department policy for schools to ask parents for money for 'school funds'?


@theslabber No. Schools receive funding depending on make-up and number of pupils. Up to schools if they request more from parents #AskDE

Question 16 from @ChrisJenkins90

#AskDE The Advisory Group on Shared Education doesnt report until February. Why isnt it feeding into Area-Based Planning process?


@ChrisJenkins90 Area plans will evolve to meet local demand. I will ensure Shared Ed Advisory Group’s findings are taken account of #AskDE

Question 17 from @McGowan1912

#AskDE what is the minister planning to to do to help parents of children with special needs,especially in disadvantaged areas?


@McGowan1912 Special Education funding protected & new policy being developed. I’m committed to ensuring equality of access for ALL #AskDE

Question 18 from @ChrisJenkins90

#AskDE ESA has duty to facilitate: "the development of education provided in an Irish speaking school." Fine, but what about integrated too?


@ChrisJenkins90 The same duty applies for integrated education #AskDE

Question 19 from @AidantCampbell

#AskDE how will DE ensure a balance between cutting costs and maintaining schools in rural areas vital to sustain rural communities.


@AidantCampbell Children in rural areas will not be disadvantaged. We are working towards vision of sustainable provision for all #AskDE

Question 20 from @s7teach

#AskDE Will the minister make a siginicant investment in leadership training given chief inspector's report


@s7teach Teacher education as a whole under review, Leadership Development a key priority in this going forward #AskDE

Question 21 from @McGowan1912

#AskDE what are your plans for all grammar schools? Will the ESA bill treat all sectors equally?


@McGowan1912 All schools and sectors will be treated equally #AskDE

Question 22 from @The RowYouKnow

@niexecutive Has the Minister been able to give any further consideration to the proposed amalgamation of #SWBelfast Primary Schools #AskDE


@TheRowYouKnow Area planning will ensure right schools are in right place to meet the needs of children, including in S Belfast #AskDE

Question 23 from @mc_elhill

#AskDE How does Minister see DE contributing to cross departmental Autism Strategy out of The Autism Act 2011? #autism #Aspergers


@mc_elhill DE working with DHSSPS to progress Autism Strategy and improve services and support for children on Autistic Spectrum #AskDE

Question 24 from @TheRowYouKnow

@niexecutive No parental choice of post primary provision in #southbelfast Integrated or Grammar - is this equality? #AskDE


@TheRowYouKnow Area planning will take account of parental preference when considering need for particular school types in any area #AskDE

Question 25 from @TheRowYouKnow

@niexecutive Pls issue free travel passes to all post primary children in #southbelfast NRAs in attempt to reduce absenteeism #AskDE


@TheRowYouKnow DE has active strategy to cut absenteeism. Transport assistance available only to those who qualify #AskDE

Question 26 from @MaryTreatTicket

#AskDE Are you ever going to sort out the mess that is the Transfer system / 11+? Why haven't you made this a priority??? #AskDE


@MaryTreatTicket DE guidance on transfer to p/primary clear. Majority of schools adhere. No need for unregulated testing at 10 & 11 #AskDE

Question 27 from @dmchugh675

#askDE How will DE support schools in areas with high levels of deprivation to address the 'digital divide'? #niedchat


@dmchugh675 c2k network covers ALL schools. I’m committed to ensuring equal access to digital technologies in school for all pupils #AskDE

Question 28 from @MrMalcontent

#askDE Over 100 Teachers gathered in Stranmillis in Friday night for CPD of a different kind. Can you support us? #niedchat #tmbelfast #tmnw


@MrMalcontent Future of CPD is currently under consideration as part of review of teacher education #AskDE

Question 29 from @jeni_mcguff

#AskDE how did you get to where you are now? I'm just coming out of college and want a career in educ. (can I come work for you, please?)


@jeni_mcguff I’m an elected MLA & appointed as Minister. Ask your careers advisor about a career in education or civil service #AskDE

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Submit your question directly to the Education Minister via Twitter

Education Minister John O’Dowd will be live on Twitter at 11.15am on Thursday 25 October answering your questions.
Education Minister John O'Dowd

You can submit your question now via the hashtag #AskDE. 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 11.15am on Thursday to see the responses live, don’t worry. All responses will remain on the @niexecutive timeline and under the hashtag #AskDE. A full transcript will also be published on this blog.

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

Users should submit no more than two questions each. This will enable as many people as possible to have a chance to take part and have their query answered.

The Minister will respond to as many tweets as possible in the time available. If your particular tweet is not responded to, it may be the case that the topic is covered by a different response, so do please read them all.

Please note we’ve kept the questions submitted for the postponed #AskDE in June. They will be considered equally with any submitted from now.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Statement on technical issues with school computer based assessments

Education Minister, John O’Dowd has responded to concerns raised by some schools in relation to technical issues with the new computer based assessment system.

A number of primary schools have contacted CCEA to advise that their pupils were experiencing difficulties when completing computer based assessments in literacy and numeracy.  Based on the information provided to date the difficulties are related to system and network issues and not to any problems with the assessment programs themselves. 

The Minister said: “I am aware that a number of schools are experiencing technical difficulties when accessing the new statutory computer-based assessments.  I am obviously concerned at the impact this may have on teachers and, more importantly, on pupils and have asked those involved to make every effort to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency.

“It is important to note that these problems were not encountered during the significant period of testing prior to their introduction and they are not affecting every school.  Nonetheless, the intermittent nature of the problem makes it difficult to resolve and CCEA and C2K have been working with the service provider, Northgate, to try to establish the causes. I have asked them to report back to me on this issue as quickly as possible.”

The Minister continued: “The new assessments have been designed specifically for our local context and are an important element of our drive to raise standards in literacy and numeracy. They are diagnostic in nature, intended to assist the work of teachers and the understanding and engagement of parents and pupils.

“Schools have been advised that if the current difficulties in operating the new assessment is interfering with this purpose, or is causing distress to pupils, they should stop the assessments until they are advised that the issues have been addressed.  Given the current circumstances, I believe it would be unreasonable to expect those schools who are encountering such difficulties to have conducted assessments and reported outcomes to parents by the end of the autumn term. My Department will be writing to schools to provide them with further guidance on this issue.” 

In conclusion the Minister said: “I note that many schools have already conducted the assessments successfully and have made arrangements to report to parents and set up meetings this term. Indeed, given the value of autumn term parental meetings, I hope that the majority of schools will be in a position to conduct assessments and report as normal.
Finally, I want to reassure those schools affected by the technical problems that every effort is being made to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.”

Notes to editors:

For media queries please contact the Department of Education Press Office on 028 9127 9207. Outside office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.