Belfast Telegraph

My view: Assembly must fix education

By Trevor Lunn

If ever there was a time when I, an elected representative, shared the public's cynicism about politics it was last month, when it appeared seven years' work would be wasted due to political intransigence on the issue of removing bureaucracy from school administration.

The solution to the gridlock is simple: the proposals should be brought to the Assembly and debated for MLAs and the public to judge.

In other words, we should do exactly what we were elected to do.

For seven years proposals have been drafted and redrafted for a Bill replacing the education and library boards with a single Libraries and single Education and Skills Authority (ESA). The former has, after some delay, been set up. However, ESA now looks likely to be stillborn.

The result of this will be cobbling together the education boards into a single board, anyway. They have already been run down in expectation of the new authority and there is no justification to retain them separate from each other.

The public – whose taxes and rates pay for all this – has every right to demand that public administration be carried out more efficiently.

The reason for my anger is the fact that every concern with the original and subsequent proposals for ESA has been addressed.

The scrutiny role of elected representatives, the concerns of voluntary grammars (confirmed by support for ESA, as currently proposed, from the Governing Bodies Association), the role of transferors – all have been reviewed and changed. We are ready to go – except for unionist intransigence.

When I ask unionists on the education committee what they now have against the proposals, they can't tell me. However, it is not me they should be telling – it's the public.

I appeal to the minister, the chair of the committee and all concerned to do the right thing: bring the proposals for the creation of ESA to the Assembly.

There, they can be debated and the public can see if they are persuaded by unionist failure to progress this issue.

Trevor Lunn MLA is Alliance education spokesman

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