Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

First Minister needs to offer more than criticism

DUP leader Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson is to be congratulated for opening a debate on the future of education. It is a debate that is long overdue.

The only sad thing about Mr Robinson's intervention is his lack of thinking on the way forward. Simply suggesting 'our current system is a type of benign apartheid' is stating the obvious.

But what should replace it? Personally, I am a strong supporter of the Dickson Plan as operates in the Craigavon area. This says every post-primary school should be mixed, both academically and religiously.

All children, post-primary, should transfer to the local junior high school. At the age of 14, using a mixture of academic selection and pupil/parent election, progress to the senior high school or college would be mapped to meet the pupil's individual needs. Clearly the senior high schools/colleges would likewise be religiously mixed.

However, where parents wish their children to educated in a specific religious ethos, this should be made via an educational voucher system. Should sufficient parents combine their vouchers to make a school viable, so be it. But such schools would not receive extra funding. The education system in Northern Ireland needs to change. Peter Robinson is right: why should our children be educated apart?

But to move this would-be debate on, we need new and imaginative ideas. So far all we have had is the defence of the status quo.

ULTONIAN

Portadown, Co Armagh

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