The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe. Ken Good, has said political stasis at Stormont has shifted “the needle on the dial” of the educational crisis in the North to “the red zone”.
In his last last ever address to the General Synod of the Church of Ireland as a bishop on Sunday, Bishop Good said an entire “generation of young people” will be failed if “vision, finance and morale deficits” in the system are not addressed.
He made the comments while delivering the CoI Board of Education’s report to the historic synod which took place in the see of Derry for the first time over the weekend.
“In classrooms all over NI today and every day, vitally important work is being done by staff and pupils,” said Bishop Good.
“And as this work goes on, principals in their offices and teachers in the classroom and corridors are doing their best to make pupils believe that everything is carrying on as normal.
“But, just below the surface, serious dangers lurk, which threaten to undermine and even destabilise the whole school system,” he added.
Bishop Good who is to stand down as Bishop later this year said schools were facing redundancies, buildings were deteriorating and class sizes increasing.
Some schools in the North struggled to pay teachers’ salaries in March and the spending power of education budgets has fallen by £233 million since 2010/11, he said.
“We have frequently heard the word ‘crisis’ used to describe the state of education here. I fear, though, it’s gone way beyond ‘crisis’. The needle on the dial has shifted into the red zone. The alarm bells are ringing. The klaxons are sounding. But little is happening to prevent the fabric of our education system from unravelling.
“I cannot overstate the magnitude of the problem. We need intervention – urgent intervention – by those with power in our society,” he said.
Bishop Good reiterated last week’s joint call by church leaders for “a resumption of normal political life”.
“I echo that call. We are in danger of failing this generation of young people. We will be failing future generations. When it comes to something as important as our education system, failure is not an option,” he said.
The Derry prelate said a lack of funding and a lack of vision was damaging morale.
“The double-whammy of a lack of vision and a lack of funding leads inevitably to a problem with sinking morale – in staff rooms especially, in principals’ offices and at boards of governors’ meetings.
“There is a real danger that our education system could soon no longer be ‘fit for purpose’. Pupils’opportunities are reducing and staff are under more and more stress,” he said.