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Parental choice in education is top priority for SDLP

IT is the view of the SDLP that investing in educational excellence is key to achieving both social justice and long-term economic growth for our shared society. The SDLP wants to work towards a system focused not just on exams, but on a rounded education for our children.

The SDLP wants pupils and parents to have guaranteed access to their choice of integrated, faith-based and Irish-medium education. The education system needs to be inclusive, to meet the needs of all our children.

Within the debate on education at our party conference this year that priority was emphasised by many speakers. There were no motions tabled on integrated education but a motion was tabled, debated and passed concerning the need to recognise and support shared education.

The SDLP acknowledges the many excellent examples of shared education in our schools where children from different communities are receiving part or all of their education in the same classroom. This needs to be celebrated and further promoted.

Shared education is, of course, a policy and an approach to education and not a sector as integrated education is. This motion also reiterated the SDLP support for parental and pupil choice in education. There is strong evidence that faith-based schools do achieve higher results for pupils and this could well be why parents and pupils continue to favour this option and the SDLP recognise that. The SDLP welcome a debate on the need to invest in education but our priority will remain the protection of parental choice.

SEAN ROGERS MLA

SDLP Assembly Member for South Down

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