Stephen Farry stated: “Today’s Executive decision further reinforces the reality that Northern Ireland continues to operate a system of teacher training that is not fit for purpose. It remains financially unviable, it is not keeping pace with world-class standards, and it is not in keeping with the creation of a shared and inclusive future.
“There are clear alternative options available to us, which address all of these shortcomings while respecting pluralism and diversity within this society. But rather than give a clear commitment to reform, the Executive has continued to divert scarce resources into propping up an unsustainable and segregated system. Similarly, inflated numbers of teacher training places are authorised every year in order to artificially maintain the viability of the teacher training colleges when the job market is already saturated and small number of graduates secure permanent teaching positions. This decision clearly puts the interests of institutions above the needs of students and the economy.
“The implications from this Executive decision are that scarce resources will be diverted from skills budgets. Already my budget is facing significant reductions, and despite my considerable efforts to mitigate the impact on the frontline, cuts in university and college places and opportunities are inevitable. This situation is now set to be compounded. This does not sit well with stated Executive priorities, and comes at the expense of investment in frontline services for the whole community and the transformation of our economy.
“The actions of the other four parties in the Executive stand in sharp contrast to the rhetorical commitments that they have made in the Stormont House Agreement, ‘Together: Building a United Community’ and the recent Budget. Most notably, the five party leaders made a joint pitch to the UK Prime Minister for additional resources for Northern Ireland centred on the argument that this region was bearing disproportionate costs and featured distortions in the pattern of public spending due to the legacy of the past and divisions, and commitments were made to reform. The ongoing maintenance of segregated teacher training is at logger-heads with the ethos of the commitments made to a shared future. People are rightly asking how we can expect our children to share in their education if we can’t even train our teachers together?
“I will not be deflected from today’s decision in pursuing reform of the teacher training system; the students of the future have the right to expect the best. And while the other four parties stand exposed in terms of the hollowness of their commitment to a shared future, sound public finances and public sector reform, Alliance will continue to step forward in seeking to transform our economy and our society.”