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Department Of Education

Volume 205: debated on Monday 16 March 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list the achievements since 1979 of the Department of Education for Northern Ireland.

Since 1979 spending on education and related services has increased, in real terms, by over 30 per cent; in 1992–93 the total spend will be £ 1.2 billion.Pupil-teacher ratios have improved between 1979–80 and 1990–91 from 23·8 to 22·8 in the primary sector and from 15·5 to 14·9 in the secondary sector. The proportion of 16-year-olds, over school leaving age, and 17-year-olds staying on at schools has increased over that period from 36·7 and 25·5 per cent. to 49·9 and 35·1 per cent. respectively. The proportion of school leavers with at least one A-level increased from 21·1 to 30 per cent., while the proportion leaving with no GCSE/O-level pass has fallen from 27 to 15·3 per cent.Some £ 650 million has been invested in capital projects by the Department. This has enabled work to be carried out on more than 210 major building projects at schools and further education colleges and on nine new libraries.Local management of schools— LMS— arrangements for financing schools, which gave all secondary schools responsibility for their own budgets, were introduced in April 1991.In further education, the number of students enrolled has increased by almost 30 per cent. Special resource allocations have been made available to improve staffing levels, replace equipment, provide for staff development and to implement a major computerisation programme which will improve management and financial information systems. Boards of governors of colleges have been reconstituted to strengthen the representation from the business world and local management of colleges—LMC— has given colleges responsibility for the management of their resources.In higher education, the outcome of a review in the early 1980s, led to the removal of the binary divide in Northern Ireland and the establishment of the University of Ulster. The number of full-time NI domiciled undergraduates in higher education rose by 54 per cent. and the proportion of female full-time undergraduate and postgraduate university students in Northern Ireland has increased from 42 and 37 per cent. in 1980–81 to 51 and 46 per cent. in 1990–91.Expenditure by DENI on recurrent and capital grants for arts, museums and libraries has increased from £ 17·429 million in 1979–80 to £ 33·299 million in 1990–91.The Department has promoted the improvement of community relations in the schools and youth sectors. The cross-community contact scheme was established in 1987, and to date some 420 schools and 300 youth and community groups have been involved. A common curriculum has been introduced in all grant-aided schools.