SDLP Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey says children must come first when it comes to area planning in education.
Speaking during an Assembly debate on the issue today, the Employment and Learning spokesperson said there is “no bigger issue for the North’s future than the future of our children’s education”.
Mr Ramsey said: “The SDLP envisage an education system focused not just on exams, but on a rounded education for our children and one which provides parental choice of integrated, Irish medium, state or faith-based education through the provision of appropriate access for all pupils.
“Alongside choice, the fact that spending per primary school child is less than half that of grammar school children must be addressed. Further money and resources must be spent on early years, primary and nursery education to counter this injustice. This is a key step toward investing in educational excellence, which is key to achieving both social justice and long-term economic growth for our shared society.”
The assemblyman said a more robust focus on attainment of STEM subjects, (science, technology, engineering and maths), at all levels of ability, was needed to provide students and the local economy with “the necessary skills base to excel in this era of global competition”.
Mr Ramsey said: “All these important priorities are being stalled by the now seven-year delay in establishing ESA and the recent news that the minister is rubbishing the plan. Sadly without the single Education and Skills Authority the five Education and Library Boards, and the different sectoral bodies within the system, have had to move ahead on their own.
“It is undesirable, yet inevitable that this has resulted in planning without formal recognition or promotion of greater sharing between sectors. It has resulted in a jumbled sustainable schools policy that will, in the case of Immaculate Conception College in Derry starve a community of a school that has been at the heart of the area for many years and provides valuable community services.”
Mr Ramsey also highlighted again the plight of the Woodlands Speech and Language Therapy Unit in Derry which he said was closed by the education minister “despite it being an example of best practice, despite objections from ETI officials, despite total community objection”.
“Far from sustainability,” said Mr Ramsey, “the focus in this case seems to be on feigned adherence to legislation he can himself change.”