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Adoption of education bill 'significant step forward'

THE adoption of the education bill has been hailed as a "significant step forward for children and young people".

The assembly yesterday passed the bill, which will, subject to royal assent, enable the establishment of the new Education Authority (EA) from April 1 next year.

The EA will replace the existing five education and library boards.

This one-board option was presented as an alternative to the Education and Skills Authority (ESA) after rival parties failed to agree its establishment.

Bodies including the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools and the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment will remain outside the EA.

Education minister John O'Dowd said the bill represented the biggest change in the administration of education since the area boards were established in the 1970s.

"The new Education Authority will deliver the same services delivered by the boards but in a more streamlined manner, realising significant savings and efficiencies that will in turn deliver real benefits to the classroom," he said.

"I still believe that the Education and Skills Authority is the best option for optimising the delivery of education in the north and I remain hopeful that we can return to working towards ESA. ESA would have incorporated a range of other education bodies as well as the boards, becoming the overarching employing and funding authority for local schools.

"This education bill leaves the door open for such a move in the future."

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