Belfast Telegraph

Church in call for all schools to be treated equitably

By Rebecca Black

The Presbyterian Church has called on Education Minister John O'Dowd to ensure all schools are treated equally.

At its General Assembly yesterday, Church delegates concluded that there was an "ongoing and obvious inequitable and unjust treatment" of the controlled sector in Northern Ireland.

A resolution – already endorsed by the Church of Ireland – was passed noting "with deep concern the continuing disadvantaged position of controlled schools throughout Northern Ireland due to a lack of a dedicated advocacy and support body".

It called on Mr O'Dowd to take steps to "ensure equality of treatment for all schools".

Convener of the Church's board of education Rev Dr Colin McClure said he felt Protestant children from deprived communities seemed to be getting the least from the education system.

"There has been so much focus and energy expended over these last few years on the Review of Public Administration, perhaps most notably about setting up the Education and Skills Authority, that we shouldn't lose sight of the disadvantage and vulnerability of those for whom we have a responsibility, ie controlled schools," he said. "Educators need support of professional staff, provided in Northern Ireland by education and library boards. We appreciate the strain under which this latter group of people were working.

"Despite our concerns, in so many places our children and young people have been given nurturing, life-enhancing opportunities by devoted professionals.

"In controlled schools, Protestant boys and girls from economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds appear to be getting least from education."

The Methodist Conference will discuss the motion next week.

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