DUP backs deal on grammars


The DUP has expressed approval over agreement that has been reached with the education minister and a grammar school representative body over who will control their appointments.

The UUP has adopted a wait-and-see attitude and the minister says he will respond to the body, the Governing Bodies Association (GBA), in due course. Details of the deal are not in the public domain.

In two letters to their 52 school members this month the GBA revealed that they had been in talks for months with Minister John O’Dowd in relation to resolving a stalemate over implementing the Educational and Skills Authority (ESA).

There have been fears ESA would take away schools’ freedom to appoint staff and give the minister control.

In a February 11 letter the GBA reassured members: “We hope you will understand that discretion was paramount and the situation remained fluid for many months during the discussions between the key stakeholders.”

Asked to clarify details of what has been agreed with Mr O’Dowd, GBA director Nuala O’Neill confirmed it has been involved in “detailed negotiations” and that it is “satisfied with the proposed revisions to the legislation”.

She added: “As the minister confirmed last week on Radio Ulster the employment principle has been resolved.”

DUP education spokes-man Mervyn Storey said: “Whilst there are still some other issues to be progressed we are content that huge strides have been made which protect and secure our grammar schools as well as other sectors.”

UUP education spokesman Danny Kinahan said: “We will support changes to a re-drafted Education Bill if the minister guarantees that the voluntary school sector can continue to employ their staff and teachers, and properly exercise self-governance.”