The debate about teacher training places really is an incredibly simple one.
How many teachers do we need to train in Northern Ireland? Taking account demographics, retirement rates, later pension age and so on, certainly not more than 400.
The question then becomes, simply, how is this done most efficiently? By training them, as they do in similar locations like Glasgow and Dublin, within existing local Universities.
The Minister should now proceed to do that, with full Executive support.
That is, of course, where it all goes wrong. As a country recovering from decades, nay centuries, of sectarian conflict, for some reason 85% of those we elect (and thus 80% of our devolved government) think it is a brilliant idea to continue to educate our children along those same sectarian lines. In order to do this, it is apparently also a brilliant idea to train those who educate them along those same sectarian lines.
For decades, we have had money from elsewhere pumped into ‘peace’ funds on the assumption that Northern Ireland would obviously now proceed to break down the sectarian barriers which divided it and left it conflicted for so long. Instead, 80% of those we elect think it is a brilliant idea deliberately to maintain those barriers, from the age of four, and to secure them in place in terms of those teaching our children until about age 23. Far from bringing down the barriers, the Executive and 85% of the Assembly want to copperfasten them in place.
Which brings us to the next obvious question: why?
Just weeks after they went to the UK Government with the mother of all begging bowls pleading “special circumstances” because of the divided nature of our society, 80% of our Executive parties now thing we should bolt down those “special circumstances” and ensure the divisions remain in place for another generation. Apparently, this will bring us all to peace and the promised land.
Our sectarian politicians stamp their feet and rant and rave when they are not given money that they “need”. Yet when they are given the chance to prove they could spend money efficiently, they opt not just to spend it inefficiently, but to do so while maintaining in place the very conditions which led to conflict – actively and deliberately.
We would prefer to train 180 teachers we will never need (who will never ever be able to get a job in their chosen vocation here) in conditions deliberately segregated along sectarian lines than train 250 engineers in an integrated setting to provide skills which will encourage jobs and wealth for the same price.
That’s the bitter, inefficient and actively sectarian Executive 85% of you elected, folks. Today, they will no doubt prove it…