Belfast Telegraph

Report on education shames the Executive

Editor's Viewpoint

We rightly laud the achievements of the high performers at GCSE and A-level in our schools - consistently beating the UK average - and from that we make the very wrong assumption that the quality of education here is world-class.

A report from the Education and Training Inspectorate Chief Inspector shows that such an assumption is very wide of the mark.

One in three pupils at secondary school level and one in five at primary school is being given an inadequate level of education.

That equates to a total of 78,000 children whom the education system is failing.

That is a finding that should shock us all and leave the Executive and Department of Education red-faced with embarrassment.

A good education is the key to helping young people - particularly those from working-class backgrounds - to enjoy an enhanced level of opportunity and the prospect of a better quality of life.

Yet tens of thousands of children are being denied that opportunity.

Many of them are being condemned to perpetuating a cycle of unemployment, lack of self esteem, and becoming easy fodder for paramilitaries.

Low educational achievement is often associated with the worst anti-social ills.

The report points out that the overall GCSE pass rate has improved, as has the number of pupils gaining five or more good grades at that level, but it is still evident that the gap between those from the lowest socio-economic groups and their peers is not closing swiftly enough.

Until May this year, the education portfolio had been held by one party since devolution, but has often been an ideological battleground with rows over selection and Irish language.

However, the Executive must take responsibility for the failings in the system and address the issues raised in this latest report.

Greater resources must be devoted to education - children are being failed at both primary and secondary level - but these will have to come from savings and be targeted more precisely at the worst performing schools.

It is clear the dual Catholic/State system is a waste of resources. A system where those resources are more efficiently shared must be devised.

The Executive has been found wanting in this report and it must do much better to give all children equal opportunity to improve their lives.

Belfast Telegraph


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