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Picking school is important, but choice of subjects is vital

John O'Dowd

Deciding which school your child should attend is a significant milestone for all families as parents naturally want the best education for their children.

I can assure them that we have many excellent schools, staffed by dedicated and committed professionals who also want the best for each and every child who enters their doors.

As minister, I want an education system that serves all our young people. One that, no matter which school they go to, every young person can access the widest possible range of subjects and courses, including those most relevant to the needs of our economy, to progress on their chosen path in learning or employment.

The world of work is changing at an increasing pace, and young people need to develop the skills required for them to navigate a varied career path.

We must all be looking to the most up-to-date information available, including resources such as the Skills Barometer, so that we know what will help our young people find employment in our economy and further afield.

It is clear that young people need to study subjects which develop a range of skills - both intellectual and practical - in order to have the choice of both professional/technical and academic pathways.

At post-primary level, the Entitlement Framework ensures all schools offer our young people access to a broad and balanced range of subjects. Since September 2015 the Entitlement Framework has required all schools to deliver a minimum of 24 courses at Key Stage 4 and 27 at post-16, at least one-third applied and one-third general courses.

This means that young people can now choose courses that best suit their abilities, interests and ambitions. All schools are also part of an area learning community, through which pupils can access courses in partner schools and further education colleges.

By giving all our young people access to the same curriculum, we can help raise educational standards and address inequalities, enhancing life chances for all pupils and providing better outcomes for all children.

I would therefore encourage parents, as they support their children in their education, to give careful consideration to opportunities at Key stage 3 and 4, thinking to the future and the exciting range of pathways available to our next generation.

For more information on the Education Works campaign: www.nidirect.gov.uk/education-works

Belfast Telegraph