For the sake of our people, we have to move as much as possible and as quickly as possible to a shared community whether that it with housing or education.
This week as the Assembly debated the Education Bill the SDLP worked hard to try to ensure a balanced Education Authority Board that would provide as balanced as possible representation to the sector.
At the heart of the SDLP’s deliberations was what would be best for children and parents, as well as the schools they would attend.
The SDLP believe strongly in parental choice – and it is essential that that choice is given a voice.
The SDLP did not get the Education Authority Board we would have envisaged but aspects of our amendment were taken on; specifically the inclusion of seats for representatives of voluntary grammars, Irish-medium education and integrated schools.
These sectors educate over 50% of our students and that is why it is so essential that they have a strong voice.
The SDLP also welcome the very crucial and major step that the Assembly is taking to recognise the Irish Medium Education sector on the face of the bill.
This is a growing sector and must be given the recognition it deserves.
Choosing a school and obtaining a place can be a time of great stress for families.
It is important that they know that their choice is represented on the new streamlined Education Authority Board.
We are coming from a difficult place and a difficult history and this is reflected in the multiple political arguments over education over many years.
It took far too long for us to get to this point. What we now have is a balance Education Authority Board and we need to move on to the point.
However, we need to remember that we have a huge job of work to do to ensure that we create an education system that embraces parental choice but also begins to do the hard work of breaking down barriers within our communities.