HC Deb 23 July 1987 vol 120 cc474-5
5. Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he intends to introduce the equivalent of the technical and vocational education initiative in Northern Ireland.

Dr. Mawhinney

A vocational education programme for secondary schools in Northern Ireland was announced in December 1986 and some £5.6 million has been made available in the 1987–88 financial year. That programme has the same broad objectives as the technical and vocational education initiative, but has been tailored to meet the particular needs of the education service in Northern Ireland.

Mrs. Bottomley

I warmly welcome that news. Does my hon. Friend agree that the vocational education programme offers a real opportunity to break down barriers between education and training and to establish links between schools and employers? Will my hon. Friend give a little more detail about his plans? Can particular priority be given to introducing the programme in secondary and intermediate schools?

Dr. Mawhinney

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because I attach considerable importance to the new initiative. The £5.6 million to which I referred is for this financial year. I hope to be able to make broadly similar amounts available in the next two financial years. That money will go towards the provision of additional laboratories and workshops, additional equipment, sports facilities and in-service training for teachers because I am determined, as my hon. Friend says, to try to increase technology, science, information technology and economic awareness among the pupils in Northern Ireland to help them make the transition from school to industry and work.