The future of many schools in the primary and post-primary sectors have been put a risk as a direct result of the proposals of the Education Minister John O’Dowd, which appear to be based almost entirely on a ‘numbers game’, claims East Derry SDLP Assembly member John Dallat.
Mr Dallat claims the issue is particularly serious in East Derry, where there are a large number of schools which are in the direct line of fire if Mr O’Dowd’s proposals are implemented carte blanche without due consideration for the overall needs of the rural communities.
He said: “If rural schools disappear, the viability of our rural communities will be threatened. This has serious implications for East Derry, where there are a considerable number of schools which are in the direct line of fire if the minister’s misguided policies are carried through.
“The minister needs to pull back from his plans which will not solve the fi,nancial mess the Department of Education is in, nor will it address serious imbalances in the levels of attainment achieved by our pupils, a quarter of which leave school with no qualifications.
“There is no evidence to show that rural schools are the cause of any of the above problems.
“On the contrary pupils from rural schools have been outstanding in their achievements both academically, in sport and many other facets of life, particularly the arts.
“Our communities look to the NI Executive to show leadership in all aspects of life they have control over but to date the results in East Derry have been extremely disappointing in many ways, particularly the failure to provide a bypass at Dungiven, the discontinuation of the ferry service between Magilligan and Greencastle not to mention the failure to attract inward investment.
“Creating uncertainty among our rural schools, both primary and post-primary is hardly a stabilising political move forward.”