North Antrim MLA and Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Daithí McKay has said that difficult decisions lie ahead but difficult decisions “will be necessary” to secure “an efficient high quality education system fit for the 21st Century and fit for our children’s needs.”
Speaking to delegates at the Sinn Féin Árd Fhéis in the Waterfront Mr McKay said: “Already we have in place policies which form the backbone of a new Education system and they must now be implemented in full, namely the Sustainable Schools policy, Every School a Good School and the Entitlement Framework.
“The implementation of these policies will ensure that our Education system is of the highest quality throughout and will ensure that pupils have choice when it comes to subjects at Key Stages 4 and 5 and that schools have adequate resources.
“The reality of Education here today is stark. We have falling enrolments, a reduced budget as a result of enforced British Government cuts and money being wasted on 50,000 empty schooldesks that should be diverted to frontline services.
“If other parties had not set their face against the establishment of an Education & Skills Authority over £20million would have already been saved to put towards frontline services over the past two years. A mature approach to long overdue modernization of education is now needed from all parties.
“This situation demands more sharing of resources between schools and change is already taking place. In Ballycastle in my own constituency of North Antrim for example there are two post-primary schools, one Maintained and one Controlled. Neither use academic selection, both share resources, and pupils, teachers & management work together on a daily basis to deliver a high quality education service.
“This is something that we are going to see more of in the time ahead. Sharing between sectors, sharing within sectors and in some instances integration. Those are some of the choices that lie ahead and different areas will make different choices but all must lead to sustainable schools and a high quality education.
“Gaelscoilleana are growing at a significant rate and we look forward to that continuing. Sinn Féin will continue to ensure that the duty to promote and facilitate Irish medium education is fulfilled and our commitment to Irish language education is enshrined in our new Irish language policy document launched at this Árd Fhéis.
“The inequality of separating children at 11 years of age must come to an end and the time has come for the Catholic Commission for Education to implement its decision to end academic selection, and other sectors must follow suit.
“There will be continuing resistance to addressing inequalities within education but it is up to all of us to challenge that. There are difficult decisions ahead for not only the Education Minister but all stakeholders in Education. Such decisions will be necessary if we are to achieve an efficient high quality education system fit for the 21st Century and fit for our children’s needs.”