The legislation to enable the establishment of the Education and Skills Authority (ESA) is currently at the committee stage in the NI Assembly. The legislation will bring together the five Education and Library Boards, the Youth Council, Staff Commission and the statutory functions of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS).
The creation of this single authority for all schools in Northern Ireland represents the most significant change in administration of education in forty years. ESA will be the employing authority for all staff in grant-aided schools and its main functions and role will be: Improving education and raising standards in schools, planning the schools' estate, providing support for school governors and providing key services to schools e.g., school transport, school maintenance, school meals, and youth services.
ESA will be governed by a Board of 20 members of whom 8 will be persons nominated by the political parties determined by their representation in the Assembly. The Minister will appoint a Chairperson and 4 Catholic Trustee nominees, 4 Transferor nominees and 4 persons representative of the community in NI.
It is anticipated that ESA will become operational during the latter half of 2013 and until that time the ELBs etc will continue to deliver key services to schools. In the interim a shadow ESA will begin work to ensure everything is in place to enable a switch over of authority at an appropriate future date. The Minister has placed advertisements in local newspapers seeking applications for a Chairperson and the four community representatives of ESA. The closing date for applications to these public appointments is 19th December.
The Church of Ireland Board of Education NI welcomes the principle of the establishment of a single authority for school and looks forward, following any necessary amendments, to the legislation receiving Assembly approval. The Board strongly encourages Church of Ireland members with the appropriate experience and interests in either formal or informal education, to consider applying to become community representative members of ESA. This is an exciting opportunity to be involved in the shaping of schools and influencing the quality of education of children for the future. Further information regarding the appointment of Chairperson or community representatives can be found on the Department of Education website at http://www.deni.gov.uk/
There will be another opportunity for interested members of the Church of Ireland to possibly find membership of the ESA Board. As indicated above, the transferor churches, that is, the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches, which transferred their schools into state control in the early 20th century, have a right to nominate a total of 4 persons to the Minister for appointment to the ESA Board.
The three denominations have devised their own processes to bring forward nominations. The Board of Education NI on behalf of the Church of Ireland has decided to seek expressions of interest from church members. A panel from the Board will meet interested persons in order to make a decision on nomination. The exact division of the four places between the three churches will be agreed by the Transferor Representatives' Council.
An advert will appear in the Church of Ireland Gazette and diocesan websites shortly giving details of how persons might indicate their interest and provide some other details. In the meantime the Board encourages Church of Ireland members with a deep interest in the education of children in schools to seriously consider both of these possibilities for service either as a community representative or as a transferor representative. This is a wonderful opportunity to serve the church and bring faith-based perspective and expertise to a really important area of public life.
Revd Ian W Ellis
Secretary to the Church of Ireland Board of Education NI