Assembly Questions… and answers!

10 04 2010

Schools out…

Thanks again to Thomas ‘The Hitman’ Burns for another of his revealing Assembly questions. So what has he sleuthed out this time?

Well, we’ve discovered that home schooling is on the increase since Caitriona Ruane got her feet under the desk as Rathgael House! Way to go Catty!

Thomas asked the Education Minister how many children have been registered as being home schooled.

Of the figures she was able to give, it seems that home schooling in 06/07 was at a low of 171 kids… until Caitriona rocked up in 07/08, at which point home schooling shot up to 189 pupils!

The upward trend continued again last year with 204 kids sneaking under the wire to avoid the reign of terror.

No doubt The Great Escape will continue – but like Dickie Attenborough I think the Pupil Escape Committee could go for broke and target 250 escapees next year.

Catty, best to check schoolbags for monkey wrenches, wire clippers and German military motorcycles. Just in case. (Best of luck chaps!)

Tsk. And I thought Caitriona’s objective was to fill empty desks rather than create them?

*****************************

In Caitriona’s defence…

Mitchel McLaughlin asked the DEL Minister about young people not in education, employment or training.

Sir Reg came back with the most extraordinary answer.

He said:

“…it is clear that the issues affecting these young people are cross-departmental and multi-agency in nature. For example, it is telling and very pertinent that in the year 2007/2008, 80% of our young people who left school at 16 did not achieve at least 5 GCSEs at grades A*-C (including equivalents) including English and Maths.”

That is an utterly extraordinary figure. Four of every five kids leaving at 16 do so without having achieved the minimum requirement for most forms of employment. The education system is failing a huge number of young people.

Whether one believes Ruane’s current policy is right or disastrous, it is clear she has to perform major surgery to get the education system working again for a large number of young people.

If anyone boasts that Ruane is wrecking the best the education in the UK etc – point them towards that figure. What we had in place in 2007/2008 was clearly deeply flawed.

So how will the Assembly addressed NEETs?

Not to worry, all is in hand. Reg has commissioned a scoping study. So that’s all right then.

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Inter-fraud Ireland…

High fives to ‘The Hitman’. He’s at his work again. This time Thomas has revealed another layer of, erm, cross-border trade and enterprise!

Slipping across the border for tank of petrol we know about, but Thomas asked the Social Development Minister to detail the amount claimed by people caught nipping across for a bit of cross-border benefit fraud.

It transpires that in 2007/2008, the taxpayer was relieved of £177k. But when the recession started to bite in 2008/09 people got way more entrepreneurial with their benefits claims… and nicked £262,412 from the public purse!

Then I guess as the public finances tightened up, there’s been less money to steal so it dropped down to £152,113 in the past year up to March.

The cross-border fraudster (as well as the honest business) has found it difficult to make a few bob this year. So even a contracting economy provides the glimmer of a silver lining.

[These figures might just be tip of the iceberg. Only about a dozen cases of cross-border benefit fraud are detected each year. Surely there’s more at it than that?]

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