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John O'Dowd: Stormont rows killed plans for single authority to govern schools

Education Minister John O'Dowd has blamed the Stormont Executive for repeatedly failing to agree his proposals for a single authority to govern schools.

On Tuesday, the Executive finally gave the go-ahead for a single education board to administer the sector, replacing the five education and library boards.

It was given a cautious welcome, but there were criticisms that the original aim of a single Education and Skills Authority (ESA) had failed.

The full ESA had been projected to save the department an estimated £20m a year, but preparations have already cost almost £16m. And after the parties disagreed on the plan, ESA was abandoned in favour of a less radical, single-board solution.

The Ulster Teachers' Union, in particular, called the move "a sell-out to political difference".

The Belfast Telegraph can reveal Mr O'Dowd tried to get his plan passed three times before it was approved this week.

In a letter seen by this newspaper, Mr O'Dowd claimed a lack of progress on ESA has "collectively maintained education's expensive administrative structures".

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The Education Committee heard yesterday that legislation for a single board was being drafted and would be given accelerated passage through Assembly.

But UUP education spokesman Danny Kinahan objected to this and called for details of the plan to be made public. "We do not agree that accelerated passage is the proper way to go," he said.

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