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SDLP angry at lack of progress implementing education report


Daniel McCrossan. Credit: Philip Magowan

Daniel McCrossan. Credit: Philip Magowan

Daniel McCrossan. Credit: Philip Magowan

SDLP education spokesman Daniel McCrossan has slammed the Education Minister for the lack of progress on addressing educational underachievement.

It comes after Michelle McIlveen revealed through a written Assembly Question that limited progress had been made to implement recommendations by the expert panel on educational underachievement in Northern Ireland.

A Fair Start report, published in May 2021, contained 47 actions to address the issues raised in their report into educational underachievement.

The panel was tasked to explore the links between educational underachievement and socio-economic background.

But the minister responded saying “steady progress” had been made and that work on implementing the report is still in the first year with a long-term strategic plan.

“I was shocked and greatly disheartened to learn that next to nothing has been done,” the West Tyrone MLA said.

“The report spelled out the scale of the problem, but it also gave us the tools to address it.

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“There are children in our schools right now who will not reach their full potential because of the systematic barriers in place to stop them from achieving. Minister McIlveen’s response that it will take ‘six years and beyond’ to implement the recommendations will provide little comfort to these pupils.

“Nobody is expecting miracles overnight,” he said, “but the very least the minister should be doing is identifying what measures can be introduced quickly to make a real difference for our young people.

“Our education system is failing as a result of the Sinn Fein-DUP led Executive over the past 15 years. The lack of progress on educational underachievement is typical of the dysfunction that paralyses this place.”

In response to Mr McCrossan, Ms McIlveen replied: “My department is making steady progress in relation to delivery of the actions contained within the Fair Start report.

“A programme board has been established and senior responsible officers have been identified for each of the eight key areas identified within the report,” she confirmed.

“Due to the cross-cutting design of the report, there is representation on the programme board from a number of departments and arm’s length bodies.

“A Stakeholder Reference Group has also been established to support the programme board to develop and refine the actions. This group is currently exploring principles of design for the “Reducing Educational Disadvantage” Programme, which will require a whole community approach and partnership.

“This is at a very early stage of development. However, it is intended that this should be strategic in scale and collaborative in nature, mandating co-design and the building of authentic partnerships between schools and communities using a place-based approach.

“As I have highlighted previously, the report ‘A Fair Start’ is an ambitious, long-term action plan with 47 actions spread across six years and beyond and it was never intended that all 47 actions would be initiated in year zero of the programme.”

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