Education shake-up could see schools given greater autonomy
Schools in Northern Ireland could be handed greater autonomy as part of the shake-up of education, Stormont minister Peter Weir has said.
He will be seeking the views of teachers within weeks on increased authority over finances and other matters as he warned the budget was severely constrained.
School leaders have called on the Executive to empower them to address standards, funding, assessment and staff development.
Mr Weir has already made decisions which he said ensured choice for schools over GCSE awarding organisations; which gave greater flexibility for practical class sizes; and which allowed primary schools to prepare pupils for the transfer tests.
The education minister said: "I trust the judgement of school leaders and governors, and that is why I took these early decisions, however we need to go further."
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) made a pre-election call for political parties to provide greater autonomy for schools in Northern Ireland.
It urged action giving heads the ability to offer tailored solutions to pupil well being, power over how they spend money and over assessment.
It called for "supportive accountability" which recognised the capability of teachers and greater authority over recruitment and development of staff.
Mr Weir addressed the annual conference of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) in Templepatrick, Co Antrim.
He said: "In the coming weeks I intend to seek the views of schools on autonomy and increased financial delegation.
"This is, in effect, a pre-consultation letter which will issue to every school in Northern Ireland. This is an opportunity for schools to make their views known in an unfettered fashion."
He noted many challenges in education and a clear need to co-operate in finding solutions to future difficulties.
"The education budget is facing severe constraints and whilst I have sought to respond to pressing needs, I have also had to make hard decisions for the benefit of schools and pupils across Northern Ireland.
"We must face these decisions with a maturity that our pupils expect from their leaders."