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Summary

  1. Minister Peter Weir questioned by Education Committee on teachers' pay negotiations
  2. Education and training inspectors discuss their 2014-16 report with committee
  3. Public Accounts Committee quizzes consultants on role in failed £1.2bn Renewable Heat Incentive scheme

Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Iain McDowell

All times stated are UK

That's all for today...

For the first time in a few weeks, business up here on the hill comes to an end while there's still some daylight outside.

Parliament Buildings at Stormont
BBC

We will return tomorrow morning at 10:30 with Stormont Live coverage of this week's meeting of the Health Committee.

Until then, goodbye!

'Scheme's potential £1.2bn cost can be reduced'

The potential £1.2bn cost to public purse of the RHI scheme is questioned by Mr Cockburn.

He says many subsidy schemes he has looked at are set up in law rather than in contract.

£10 notes
Getty Images

"Basically, laws can be changed," the CEPA director says, and adds that "there are ways of reducing that potential liability".

"People out there who have gamed the system don't want to hear that," he tells the committee.

He says he will share with MLAs his ideas on how to claw back some of the money, and with that, the questioning ends and he and his colleagues are free to go as the committee moves into closed session.

'Grant scheme would have worried people'

Gordon Dunne of the DUP asks whether CEPA had looked at the possibility of a simpler scheme, "a capital grant".

"I like that question," Mr Cockburn says adding that it looked at "something called a challenge fund", which was a competitively bid capital grant scheme.

Gordon Dunne
BBC

Mr Cockburn says the grant scheme "was the most efficient when we ran our different numbers".

However, the fundamental problem "was that it was going to be too different" from the renewable heat incentive scheme running the Great Britain, "and I think that would have got people here worried".

Missed Spotlight's profile of Alliance leader?

BBC One

New Alliance Party leader Naomi Long talked about her challenges in politics and her skin cancer diagnosis in last night's Spotlight on BBC One NI.

Naomi Long with her husband Michael
BBC

You can catch up on journalist Mandy McAuley's profile of the east Belfast MLA on the BBC iPlayer.

Keys points of Autumn Statement

BBC Politics

So, taking a glance at the chancellor's Autumn Statement, what are the key points?

Chancellor Philip Hammond carries a copy of his
Autumn Statement

Our summary of its contents will help you pick out the details most relevant to you.

'Loss is because budget wasn't controlled'

The DUP's Carla Lockhart asks how much CEPA's "miss" regarding tiering has cost.

"If our recommendations had been followed and the scheme had been reviewed there would not have been any loss," Mr Cockburn replies.

Mark Cockburn
BBC

"Your loss," he goes on to say, pointing to Deti, "is because you did not control the budget of the scheme, in terms of value for money".

"Your scheme went because you could not shut it down quickly enough."

Autumn Statement measures 'will help NI prosper'

Chancellor Philip Hammond's Autumn Statement measures "will provide greater financial security and help Northern Ireland prosper and grow", according to James Brokenshire.

James Brokenshire
PA

The Northern Ireland secretary adds that the government remains committed to devolving corporation tax to Stormont "so long as it demonstrates that its finances are on a sustainable footing".

'People said scheme was not generous enough'

Declan Kearney of Sinn Féin asks CEPA: "Why did you decide to omit tiering from the beginning?"

Mr Cockburn says that "when the initial calculations were done it wasn't clear why [the government's Department of Energy and Climate Change] was using tiering" for its version of the scheme.

Declan Kearney
BBC

Mr Kearney wants to know if the matter of tiering ever came up in discussions with Deti, but Mr Cockburn says CEPA's project manager has no recollection of any such discussion.

"The context at the time was very much people coming back saying 'this scheme is not generous enough'," he says.

Analysis: What Autumn Statement offers Stormont

Julian O'Neill

BBC News NI Business Correspondent

The additional £250m is perhaps a little more than Stormont had anticipated, but it is spread over four years.

Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir had been pushing for much more.

Traffic at the York Street junction
BBC

The cash is for capital projects, things like roads, so not day-to-day departmental resource spending.

Expect calls for the money to be used on the York Street Interchange.

But it could be we have to wait until 19 December, the Northern Ireland Executive's budget day, for a clearer indication of how Stormont will spend it.

'Hands up, we missed it'

In reply to a question from chair Robin Swann, Mr Cockburn says the report cost about £80,000, of which CEPA was paid £55,000 for their work.

Returning to the vexed question of tiering, he says: "Hands up, we missed it."

Robin Swann
BBC

The DUP's Trevor Clarke accuses the CEPA representative of "sort of saying somebody else should have picked it up after we missed it".

"No, I'm not saying that," says Mr Cockburn.

"That's how it's coming across," the South Antrim MLA retorts.

'We regret we didn't raise tiering issue'

Mr Cockburn explains the concept of the tiering of tariffs.

That happens when the level of the tariff "is greater than the variable cost of heat production".

Wood pellets
Thinkstock

Mr Cockburn says that, in the case of RHI, "the tariff was above the cost of fuel by roughly 0.7% per kWh, and therefore tiering should have been applied".

"We obviously regret that we did not raised the point, especially given what has happened," he adds.

'CEPA drew up report on RHI scheme's set-up'

Three representatives of Cambridge Economic Policy Associates (CEPA) are answering question on its role in setting up the RHI scheme.

Representatives of Cambridge Economic Policy Associates
BBC

Mark Cockburn, one of CEPA's directors, says its economic and financial policy consultants prepared a report for Deti - now the Department for the Economy - which they delivered to the department in June 2011.

Background: Renewable Heat Incentive scheme

The Renewable Heat Incentive scheme was introduced in 2012 by the former Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (Deti), with the aim of increasing the uptake of renewable heat technologies.

But in July this year, the Northern Ireland Audit Office stated in a report that "serious systematic failings" in the scheme are likely to cost the Northern Ireland budget "hundreds of millions of pounds".

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton described the finding as "deeply shocking".

The Audit Office investigation was prompted when a whistleblower contacted the Northern Ireland Executive in January alleging that the scheme was being abused.

Burning wood pellets
Tchara

One of the claims was that a farmer was aiming to collect about £1m over 20 years from the scheme for heating an empty shed.

At an initial PAC inquiry session, a senior civil servant apologised for the department's lack of oversight in the scheme and said that by the end of it, it will have cost the public purse a grand total of £1.18bn.

Last month, officials from Ofgem E-Serve, the scheme's administrators, gave evidence to the committee.

They came in for heavy criticism from MLAs, with the SDLP's Daniel McCrossan saying the scandal was "one of the biggest" that politicians had encountered since devolution.

In the Public Accounts Committee chair

We're back after our lunch break and Ulster Unionist Robin Swann takes his customary seat at the top of the table as this week's meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) sputters into life.

Public Accounts Committee
BBC

The members are continuing their inquiry into the failed Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.

Extra £250m for Stormont in Autumn Statement

Julian O'Neill

BBC News NI Business Correspondent

The Northern Ireland Executive is to receive an extra £250m in infrastructure funding, the chancellor has announced in his Autumn Statement.

Philip Hammond
BBC

Philip Hammond said the money has come from the Barnett Formula, which is used to work out how much devolved governments receive.

Stormont's Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir tweeted that a joint call for economic stimulus by himself and his counterparts in Scotland and Wales had "struck [a] chord".

It's lunchtime!

With the Education Committee adjourned, we reckon it's time to check out today's offering at the assembly's canteen.

Join us at 14:00 for this week's meeting of the Public Accounts Committee.

'Members could do better with behaviour'

The officials depart and Barry McElduff jokes that "the conduct of members is good or better 80% of the time", nodding to the earlier spat between Alliance Party MLA Chris Lyttle and the DUP's Carla Lockhart.

Barry McElduff
BBC

Mr Lyttle says they "could do better".

The committee agrees to request an assembly "take note" debate on the report.

Belfast's York Street Interchange set to benefit?

Julian O'Neill

BBC News NI Business Correspondent

Stormont to receive £250m infrastructure cash

Clodagh Rice

BBC News NI Business Reporter

'Report damning on sub-standard education'

Sinn Féin's Jennifer McCann says her reading of the report is that "too many pupils are receiving an education that's not good enough".

"To me, that's damning."

A child in a classroom
BBC

She calls for "more supportive education programmes" and greater equality in the education system.

The chief inspector agrees that there is a need to improve the quality of education for marginalised learners.

'Responsibility for improvement lies with schools'

Ulster Unionist Sandra Overend wants to know who is responsible for ensuring improvement in schools subject to follow-up inspections.

She says she understands that lies with the Education Authority.

Children in a classroom
BBC

"Ultimately school improvementsits with the school," says Mrs Buick.

"But where schools are in the follow-up process there is a level of support available from ourselves," she adds.

'All inspectors have been practitioners'

SDLP MLA Colin McGrath notes a comment from ETI official Raymond Caldwell that "we do this all day every day".

He suggests that it might be better if inspectors came out of teaching for, say, two years, and then returned to their job.

Colin McGrath
BBC

Mrs Buick says that "all inspectors have been practitioners" and "they have been inspected".

She says ETI requires expertise to carry out its work.

BreakingMan guilty of murdering Labour MP Jo Cox

A man has been found guilty of the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox a week before the EU referendum

Jo Cox
PA

Thomas Mair, 53, shot and stabbed to death the mother-of-two in Birstall, West Yorkshire, on 16 June.

'We don't have world-class education system'

The DUP's Lord Morrow asks why the inspectors say Northern Ireland does not have a "world-class education system".

"If we have have some marginalised learners who are not achieving as well as they could do then I think it would be very difficult to say we have a world-class education system," Mrs Buick replies.

Boys in a classroom
BBC

Lord Morrow also wants to know why Protestant boys are underachieving at school.

"We know that  boys learn differently from girls," the chief inspector says, "and we need to have a stronger focus on making sure that the teaching and learning is appropriate for boys."

Follow chancellor's Autumn Statement live

BBC Politics

Over in Westminster, Chancellor Philip Hammond is at the despatch box to deliver his Autumn Statement.

Philip Hammond
AFP

You can watch him give his first major economic policy announcement and follow analysis of it with our live coverage here.

We know you'd rather stay here with us, though...

Three clues to the Autumn Statement

Clodagh Rice

BBC News NI Business Reporter

'There are 78,000 pupils in inadequate schools'

Committee chair Barry McElduff asks about "stubborn" levels of schools requiring improvement.

Mrs Buick agrees that the levels have remained persistent over the past six years, and adds that there are 78,000 pupils "in provision that wasn't good enough".

Chuildren in a classroom
BBC

Schools claim that the inspectors are "not supportive", Mr McElduff tells her.

"We have to make it more open and transparent," the chief inspector says, adding that principals now sit in on all inspectors' meetings.

'Persistent shortcomings need to be addressed'

Mrs Buick goes into more detail on some of the less sunny aspects of the education sector.

A child in a classroom
BBC

She says that 21% of the organisations inspected "had important areas for improvement".

"There are still unacceptable variations and persistent shortcomings that need to be addressed," the chief inspector adds.

'Positives as well as challenges for education'

Three officials from the Education and Training Inspectorate arrive to brief committee members on its 2014-16 report.

Officials from the Education and Training Inspectorate
BBC

Chief inspector Noelle Buick outlines the main aspects of her report.

"Education and training in Northern Ireland has many positives that we should celebrate but many challenges remain," she says.

'Don't be rude, don't interrupt the chair'

With the minister gone, Mr Lyttle makes a point that committee members should be more careful about the language they use towards each another.

He had complained that he had not been given as long to question the minister as some other members, and in response to that the DUP's Carla Lockhart had said she would "not cry over not getting enough time like some members".

Carla Lockhart
BBC

Mr Lyttle is unhappy with the comment, as well as a suggestion that he was "arrogant" in his questioning of Mr Weir during the minister's previous appearance, and makes his point to the chair.

But Ms Lockhart says: "When the chair dictates that you're finished your time-slot, you have to agree with that and not be rude and interrupt again."

'Imaginative thinking needed to find salary solution'

The dispute over teachers' pay has been "long-running" and previous education minister John O'Dowd was "unable to resolve it", says the DUP's Lord Morrow.

Peter Weir
BBC

No-one is benefitting from the situation, he adds, and it will take "some imaginative thinking" to find a solution.

Mr Weir says his department will "do all that we can" to bring about a resolution. And with that, the minister rushes off for a visit to a school.

'Education delivery in NI in need of reform'

A suggestion by the minister that the delivery of education in Northern Ireland is "sub-optimal" causes Chris Lyttle (below) to raise an eyebrow.

The Alliance Party MLA asks Mr Weir if he thinks the system needs major reform

Chris Lyttle
BBC

The minister explains that it needs significant changes, but adds that they would take a considerable amount of time to implement, adding: "We need to make as much progress as quickly as we can."

Mr Weir also explains "1% cost-of-living pay increase" for teachers would cost the education budget about £10m a year.

"There is a rough rule of thumb that every percentage point in terms of teachers' pay increase equates to about £10m," the minister adds.

'Teachers haven't gone on strikes lightly'

Teachers have not taken their industrial action lightly, according to Sinn Féin's Jennifer McCann, adding that they are now almost taking on the role of social workers in their classrooms.

Children in a classroom
BBC

They "feel the Education Authority and the department aren't listening to them", she adds.

Mr Weir again outlines the pressure on the education budget and says he is "not going to pretend to people that cheques can be written".

'Teachers face big workloads with little resources'

Sinn Féin's Catherine Seeley says her father and sister are both teachers, and of course she was a teacher herself before her election to the assembly in May.

She outlines some of the big issues facing teachers, including class sizes that are "full to the brim" and a burden of administration and red-tape.

Catherine Seeley
BBC

"We're asking our teachers to work within that environment without additional resources," she adds, suggesting that recruiting more teachers is a solution.

Mr Weir accepts that teachers probably do have a bigger workload now, but he adds that the Education Authority, which oversees the running of schools and recruiting of teachers, is in a "tough financial position".

'Time for unions to take step back'

Mr Weir reiterates what he has said consistently recently - the education budget simply cannot sustain the pay rise teachers are requesting.

Peter Weir and officials
BBC

A rise of 3%, he says, would cost his department £30m.

He suggests there is an "opportunity for further discussion", but it is "time for some of the unions to take a step back", he adds.

Background: Deadlock in teachers' pay negotiations

Talks over a pay rise for teachers have been rumbling on for a considerable amount of time, but still there is no agreement in sight.

Teachers' unions say salaries for teachers in Northern Ireland are falling behind their counterparts in England and Wales, and they rejected a new pay offer last month.

Teachers on a picket line
BBC

As a result of that, teachers at 60 schools took to the picket lines (above) and the National Association of Schoolmasters and Women Teachers said its members would stage a series of rolling one-day strikes over pay, workload and job security.

Yesterday in the assembly, Education Minister Peter Weir called on the union to suspend the strike, saying it would be "detrimental" to pupils and teachers.

Missed last night's Stormont Today?

BBC Two

You can catch up on all the happenings from what was a long, busy day at the assembly yesterday on last night's Stormont Today.

Stormont Today
BBC

Mark Carruthers is joined by commentator Chris Donnelly for a full round-up and analysis of the day's business over on the BBC iPlayer.

'Committee appearance highlight of my day'

Education Minister Peter Weir takes his seat before the committee to outline the situation on negotiations over teachers' salaries.

Peter Weir
BBC

Before tackling the big issue, Mr Weir says he has been to the dentist this morning, and he jokingly suggests that after that an appearance before the committee is his "highlight of the day".

Good wishes for departing MLA McCann

This is the last meeting of the Education Committee that departing Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann will take part in, and members give their good wishes to her.

Jennifer McCann
BBC

Although she is giving up her West Belfast assembly seat, Ms McCann is remaining in politics.

She will take up a new post as an adviser to Health Minister Michelle O'Neill.