Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Playground politics failing our children

There appears to be no end to the chaos in our education system.

The latest body blow is the assertion by the DUP that the Education and Skills Authority (ESA) — the body that was supposed to replace the existing five education and library boards, delivering millions of pounds in efficiency savings — is dead in the water. The team charged with establishing the ESA is being paid up to £2.2m a year, but unless there is a sudden outbreak of consensus among political parties at Stormont, the body is unlikely to begin functioning.

The result is the loss of up to £13m in the current financial year which would have come from efficiency savings. That would have been a godsend to a hard-pressed education budget, but instead more money is being wasted. Meanwhile the DUP and Sinn Fein remain at loggerheads over education policy with a resulting stalemate.

To add further spice to the situation, the Roman Catholic Church has unveiled plans to create a series of all-ability schools throughout the province — including sharing some resources with state schools. The Church is determined academic selection in all its schools will cease after 2012, a move which may see it come into confrontation with parents who want to see their children go to traditional grammar schools. The only thing that is clear is that P7 children will be faced with sitting a series of unregulated tests in the next academic year. Far from sorting out the chaos, the politicians at Stormont remain polarised on the subject.

The dysfunctional power-sharing system at Stormont encourages politicians to engage in trench warfare. In any other democratic society there would be calls for politicians to resign if they presided over similarly chaotic polices as obtain in education here. Yet we continue to allow politicians to put ideology before common sense and the well- being of our children. How much longer will we permit the parties to try our patience?

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