Belfast Telegraph

Education being hurt by ideology

By Peter Weir

Communities across the province have fought campaigns against the closure of local schools - particularly in rural areas, where, they are told, the number of children attending the school makes it unviable for the school to remain open.

Since 2011, 33 maintained, 29 controlled and two voluntary grammars have been shut.

In many of these cases, the rationale was because of low pupil numbers and the spare capacity within the school system, or "empty desks".

Such concerns about capacity, or low pupil numbers, don't affect every school sector, however.

Recently, the Education Minister, Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd, approved the opening of an Irish language school in Dungiven, with 14 pupils.

More recently, we have heard of the announcement that an Irish language school, with 40 pupils, is to move onto the site of Lisnaskea High School; a school which closed with 140 pupils.

Six schools have opened in Northern Ireland since 2010 with fewer than 70 pupils, every one of these in the Irish medium sector.

The Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 gives licence to ignore the issues which have to be considered by other schools.

There can be no argument that a two-tier system has been created which appears to serve the promotion of a political ideology far more than any educational goal.

Everyone knows about the finite financial resources available to all our vital public services. Such decisions are not rooted in education.

And they are not based on equality, or fairness.

We have a task of building a shared future and building a better Northern Ireland for all our citizens.

We should be equipping our young people for the modern world.

Our education system will provide them with the skills necessary for the modern workforce.

Putting political ideology ahead of educational needs are decisions taken at the expense of future generations.

Peter Weir is DUP MLA for North Down

Belfast Telegraph


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