There are no immediate plans to axe the Southern Education and Library Board’s base in Armagh with the creation of the new single Education Authority this week.
It has been confirmed today (Monday) that the five boards in the Province will continue to operate as sub-regions.
Indeed, it could be a number of years before any key decisions are made in terms of one body sitting on one site.
The new Education Authority, like the 11 new super-councils, will officially take over this Wednesday, April 1, and has been heralded by the Minister as the start of a new era in education.
The Authority replaces the existing five education and library boards and their staff commission.
The new organisation will become the biggest employer in Northern Ireland. It will have a £1.5 billion budget with responsibility for improving educational outcomes, modernisation of the education estate, delivering effective and efficient services and developing a professional workforce.
Mr O’Dowd said: “We are entering a new era for education delivery. A single Education Authority will transform our education system and provide efficient and effective administrative arrangements in the years ahead.
“The new Authority will have the educational needs of children and young people at its heart with an important and continued focus on improving outcomes. Modernisation of its core services is now possible with opportunities for the professional development of its staff.”
Recognising the role of staff in the education and library boards and their staff commission, the Minister said: “I do not underestimate how unsettling this period of change has been and I am extremely grateful for your continued dedication, co-operation and professionalism.
“You more than anyone else are acutely aware of the distance that has been travelled to get us to this important milestone. Throughout that time, and for the last 42 years, you have served with dedication and distinction.
“Much has been achieved during that time and I have no doubt that you will rise to the many challenges ahead with the same professionalism and commitment.”
Minister O’Dowd said high quality education was the cornerstone of our society and added: “It is important therefore to have a clear vision of a modern, fit-for-purpose education system that delivers educational attainment and the fulfilment of potential.
“The Education Authority is an opportunity to strive to do better for the benefit of the children and young people we serve and I wish you every success for the future.”
Interim Chief Executive of the Education Authority, Gavin Boyd, confirmed for schools, parents and educational partners, that continuity of service was a key priority during the transition to the new Authority.
He said: “The most important message I can give today is that very little will change on the ground for anyone accessing our services in the short term.
“Plans to bring together the existing structures into one organisation will be implemented gradually over a number of years.
“In the interim, the staff and structures of the education and library boards will continue to operate as five sub regions of the Education Authority.
“Continuity of service is our greatest priority. This means that in the majority of cases, for an initial period, the same staff will continue to work with schools, parents and other stakeholders. They will be based in the same locations and they can be contacted on the same telephone numbers.
“As we move into the transformation phase of the change programme, our focus will be on developing regional services, policies and procedures that meet the needs of all children, regardless of their background or where they live.
“This is just the beginning of an exciting journey for education. I look forward to working with my colleagues across the region and exploring how the Education Authority can continue to develop and improve as we work together to continue to support the delivery of education and make our contribution to improving the life chances of all of our young people.”
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