Belfast Telegraph

Top marks for students but our MLAs could do so much better

By Kathryn Torney

There is no doubt that Northern Ireland should bask in the glory of its young people’s A-level success this year.

But in the week when thousands received glowing A-level results, we also shouldn’t forget the young people who never even get to attempt these exams.

As well as regularly outperforming students in other parts of the UK when it comes to formal exams, we must also take responsibility for the very long tale of underachievement in our schools.

Thousands of children leave school at 16 every year without five good GCSEs and they shouldn’t be forgotten when the champagne corks are popping elsewhere.

The impact of having 50,000 costly empty seats in our school system has impacted unfairly on the secondary school sector.

Grammar schools have continued to fill to capacity, leaving many secondaries to cope with the reduced rolls — and the important per pupil funding which goes with this.

The Department of Education must work harder to ensure that money is not wasted on empty seats at a time when budgets are so tight and every penny counts.

Instead this money could be spent on important school improvement in areas where academic attainment is low. With the right support and resources in place, many pupils could do a lot better.

We need to create a school system which caters for the needs of all children of all abilities. The only way this can happen is for MLAs at Stormont to sit down and work together.

Resolving the stalemate over the school transfer system is an important first hurdle which must be overcome.

As the political parties prepare to return after their long summer break, education should be top of their agenda.

If they don’t address the problems which clearly exist, the grades on the politicians’ own reports cards could make grim reading come election time.

Belfast Telegraph

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