Belfast Telegraph

Schooling in Northern Ireland needs new direction

By David McNarry

Education is one of the many failures of the Executive. All parents want the best for their children, so when parties use education as a political football, they are trampling on people's hopes.

The sterility of the education debate – focused on selection and a battle over grammar schools – has produced no results. Ukip wants to break this deadlock.

First, we are foursquare behind grammar schools. They are good at what they do, produce excellent academic results and enable their pupils to get on in the world.

I want Northern Ireland grammar schools to be the model for reintroducing grammars across the rest of the UK.

Secondary schools also need a sense of direction. They should become technical colleges, producing children with real skills.

These new technical schools must have parity of esteem and funding with grammars. They must not be short-changed, because they are producing the skills-base of the workforce on which our economic future rests.

As for selection, what we do not need is a crude pass/fail exam. We need proper selection, where all children are selected for an education type which is most appropriate for their abilities.

Those suited to academic education can go to grammar school. Those suited to a technical, skills-based education can go to technical school.

This will require major investment.

The Department of Education should have been securing that investment since 1998, instead of trying to force people into a Sinn Fein-driven comprehensive system.

Sinn Fein has held the Education Ministry uninterrupted since the Belfast Agreement (not including the Assembly's suspension from 2002-2007).

Is this power-sharing?

The sad thing is, education is only one of many ways the old Stormont parties have let the people down.

As with so many other issues, it's time to turn to the Ukip alternative.

  • David McNarry is Ukip MLA for Strangford

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