Teacher criticises minister over reduction in number of GCSE and A-level subjects

Jacquie Reid.
Jacquie Reid.

A Coleraine teacher has hit out at a move to reduce the number of subjects which schools have to offer at GSCE and A-level.

From September 2017, changes to the Entitlement Framework will result in a reduction of the specified number of qualifying courses to 21 at both Key Stage 4 and post-16 from 24 and 27 respectively.

Peter Weir.

Peter Weir.

Education Minister Peter Weir said the move was in response to school principals on the challenges they face in implementing the Entitlement Framework.

The outgoing DUP minister said: “I have listened to their concerns and in these challenging times I want to ensure that schools have clarity in the future delivery of the Entitlement Framework.”

However, Jacquie Reid, a former teacher at Millburn primary and Deputy General Secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, described it as an attack that “undermines the basics of the Entitlement Framework which blurred the lines between selective and non-selective schools and between controlled and maintained schools”.

“The Entitlement Framework ensured that our children had the best possible access to a wide range of subjects – something which is vital in the increasingly competitive world for which we as parents, teachers and a society are preparing them, “she added.

“As not all schools individually were able to offer this range, it meant the development of learning networks in some areas so all children could benefit from the best teaching and facilities regardless of which school they attended.

“If one school had better facilities for a subject like drama, then pupils from other schools in the area studying that subject would travel to it for those lessons.

“A very positive by-product of this has been the resultant blurring of lines between Northern Ireland’s grammar and non- grammar schools. We have children from grammar schools attending lessons for some subjects in their local non-grammar school because it happens to have been facilities for a given subject – and vice versa.

“We have seen similar sharing of learning and experience between children from controlled and maintained schools.

The result is that not only have children had access to a wide range of subjects, but barriers have been broken down. Without this shared experience we risk re-entrenching sectarianism within the system.

“Do we really want to go back to the days when young people sometimes didn’t meet someone from a different religious community until they started work? What could be more conducive to a healthy society than facilitating our children to learn and grow together?”