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Education minister John O'Dowd accused of 'breaking rules and failing schools' in draft budget

By Rebecca Black

Education minister John O'Dowd has been accused of failing schools in his draft budget during a heated debate on cuts to the sector.

DUP MLA Michelle McIlveen, who chairs the Education Committee, claimed that Mr O'Dowd had broken a number of "golden rules" in his draft budget, and had failed to protect classrooms.

She also lashed out at the department's director of finance, Trevor Connolly, who revealed during an appearance at the committee in December that 2,500 teachers and support staff will lose their jobs under the draft education budget.

"For the director of finance to come to the Education Committee and talk in a cavalier fashion about 2,500 redundancies - 1,500 non-teaching and 1,000 teaching - thereby ignoring collective agreements, periods of redundancy notices and the reality of the school year, which crosses two financial years, is theatrics of the worst type, and it really was not an Oscar-winning performance," she told the Assembly as she proposed a motion calling on Mr O'Dowd to ensure protecting the classroom is his first priority.

Mr O'Dowd must find savings of £198m in his budget.

Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan said Ms McIlveen should "put the blame for the cuts where it lies - with the Westminster government".

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