GEMMA BROLLY: The Crisis in Education Investment and Access being Eclipsed by Push to Delete Pluralism and Choice in Education.
Aontú Education Spokesperson and East Derry Rep, Gemma Brolly has called on the Stormont Executive focus on the urgent necessity to improve the quality of education and to improve access to that education for all children regardless of socio-economic background. She stated;
“In recent times, there has been a strong push by many to end the system of parental choice when it comes to education. Some on the extremes have even claimed that the pluralist system of Catholic Maintained Schools, Controlled Schools, Integrated Schools, Special Schools and Irish Medium Schools somehow is the cause of our divided society and that it ‘encourages’ sectarianism. This does a serious injustice to all the hard working teachers and parents who work hard every day to improve our education system”.
Aontú believes the current system enriches our pluralistic society. Pluralism is not about creating one uniform education system. It’s about people and communities being able to be who there are fully, reach their full potential and live with respect and value all other communities. Ethnic and cultural diversity exists throughout our education system. The North of Ireland Curriculum teaches diversity, respect for difference, morals and value of life through strands weaved throughout daily teaching such as ‘Mutual Understanding.’ It teaches our children from day one to integrate and respect one another’s beliefs, likes, hates and abilities.? Our schools have been overcoming sectarianism for many years now, not fuelling it. They have been spaces of respect not sectarianism. Parents must have the right to chose the their education ethos and not be forced to accept a uniform educations system.
Of significantly more importance but eclipsed behind the culture wars is the necessity to invest in our education system and improve its quality. Following recent audits (NIAO) and reports (“Too Little, Too Late” by NI Commissioner for Children and Young People) there is a most urgent need to address the quality of our education system in facilitating the needs of ALL children. Each and every recent investigation of the Education System for the North of Ireland has clearly demanded urgent and desperate need for change. We in Aontú echo and demand such change by calling for independent reviews of the Educational Authority and its’ effectiveness, of the SEN Service provision and processes, demanding that the Department of Education implement rigorous performance monitoring processes, demanding the need for urgent address of deficiencies in management of data, demanding that from here on the effectiveness of allocated funding is reviewed and we demand that the necessary investment is made in resources, training and provision of professionals necessary to address the horrendous delays in the SEN Statutory Assessment Process.