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We need to focus more on our education system

It is highly noteworthy that comments on the theory of child poverty by the Children's Commissioner received more column inches in the Press than the announcement of the closure of Dunmurry High School.

The truth is, we do not know what the impact of welfare reform will be on children. We do know that closing schools will do irreparable damage. Yet that is what the Minister for Education has done - without any challenge from the raft of other state-funded organisations supposedly set up for the sake of the very children who will suffer.

The area of this latest closure had already seen another recent closure, of Balmoral High School in 2008, as well as various other 'mergers' against the wishes of parents.

Meanwhile, mergers which enjoy strong local support, such as of three controlled primary schools in south-west Belfast, have seen the local community left in limbo for nearly a decade.

Whatever Children's Commissioners, or others, may like to write in academic reports about the future, the practical reality of the present is that children across certain sectors of the school system are barely being offered an education worthy of the name.

It is time we woke up to this disastrous gap in our education provision in marginalised commun- ities and took responsibility for putting in support to areas of educational underachievement, rather than taking it out.

PAULA BRADSHAW

Alliance Party

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