Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

The real issue in education

The primary to secondary transfer issue has descended to the kind of tribal squabble we are so used to in Northern Ireland.

As one correspondent, a retired teacher, so succinctly said, the real disadvantaged children are those whose parents

can't be bothered or haven't the time to encourage and help them in their school work.

Ms Ruane's proposed rejigging of the transfer system, allowing children to choose one school or another, will do nothing to alleviate this basic problem. The bigger issue, which neither the Minister for Education nor any of the other protagonists seem to wish to tackle, is the monstrous apartheid of segregated education.

The Catholic bishops have deliberated and come to their conclusions about the future programme for education in the Catholic sector and the majority of Catholic heads have dutifully fallen into line.

The Protestant clergy offer little more than platitudes. Perhaps they fear losing what influence they can still wield in the controlled sector.

Our children are divided from the beginning of their educational journey, except in the very few integrated schools. The Churches have a vested interest in influence and control of education and they exercise it with steely determination, despite the divisions such control perpetuates in our society.

Our major political parties appear unable to offer an agreed strategy on the future of the school system.

With continuing segregated education the population will continue to be divided and the Churchmen will wring their hands and urge tolerance.

This division, not the separation of grammar schools, is the real block to a shared future.

Robin Hewitt

Belfast

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