Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Question 19: To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to cooperate with the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment in the North; and if resources can be developed and put in place to ensure further improvements around languages and Irish Medium Education. [14465/11]
The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA, has a long-standing arrangement with the Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment, CCEA, whereby joint meetings of the two bodies are held periodically. One of the NCCA's strategic goals is the promotion of links with the CCEA. No joint initiatives are under way at present. The two councils previously engaged in joint work on the use of mobile telephones to support the teaching of Irish and on guidelines for schools in supporting exceptionally able students. My Department funds An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta, COGG, to co-ordinate the provision of teaching resources for Irish-medium schools. COGG works in partnership with the CCEA to jointly plan the development of resources, where appropriate. COGG has recently agreed to invite the CCEA to appoint a representative to its board to further develop this partnership. Three bodies - COGG, the CCEA and An tÁisaonad in St. Mary's University College in Belfast - have developed a database of all resources available for Irish-medium education on the island of Ireland. An early literacy programme is being developed by the three organisations. The first stage of the programme will be available in September of this year. COGG and the CCEA share all teaching resources.
We will have to do something about all these acronyms. I am sure the Minister accepts that it makes sense - socially, politically and economically - for the relevant interests on this small island to work together on many of these issues. He said that "no joint initiatives are under way at present". I assume he appreciates that such initiatives represent the way forward. I welcome the fact that he met Conor Murphy to discuss cross-Border co-operation. Does he not agree that such co-operation makes economic sense in these tough economic times? We discussed the price of school books earlier this afternoon. Perhaps that problem can be examined in this context. People want these efforts to be rolled out across this small island, particularly in Border areas. Surely a spatial strategy should be used to work out where kids should go to school or to draw up common sense transport routes. My main question relates to whether the Minister intends to build on the co-operation that existed in the past. Does he think there is greater potential for much of this to be rolled out?
The Deputy will be aware that a new Minister has been appointed to the Northern Ireland Department of Education, which is responsible for primary and secondary education in Northern Ireland. I had the pleasure of meeting the new Minister, John O'Dowd, in Dublin last Friday. We had made contact with each other after President Obama's visit. I was impressed by my meeting with Mr. O'Dowd. We have a similar attitude to common sense, practical co-operation. As the SDLP has said on numerous occasions, North-South help and co-operation makes sense. We should do it together without getting tied up in the fears and aspirations that have surrounded these issues for 60 or 80 years.
Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.