22 June 2006 Edition

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School closures threat a result of "chequebook mentality"

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson has criticised coments by the British Education Minister on school closures. Marie Eagle MP claimed school closures and consequent amalgamation because of falling rolls will lead to greater choice and a better quality of education.

Responding to her comments Michael Ferguson said the British Government was not using 'falling rolls' in a way that will be positive for teachers and pupils. "In many cases amalgamations that could lead to an increase of services and a better quality of education are being squandered because the British Government Ministers are reducing the school budgets via the local Education and Library Board consequently leading to larger class sizes', he said.

"Falling Rolls should allow schools to ensure a better teacher/pupil ratio on the class room, mainstream Special Needs provision as required under the New Special Education Needs Order introduced last year and at the same time address the numeracy and literacy levels that saw 23% of school leavers at 12 and 13 barely able to read and write", said Ferguson.

"This British Government's educational vision is driven by a chequebook mentality based on spurious terms like 'efficiency savings', which in real terms means a loss of jobs and services. On the other hand Marie Eagle's agenda is also now determined by a political agenda aimed at pandering to DUP intransigence that will undermine the very fundamentals of the Education Reform Order.

"It is crucial that educationalists and all of those concerned about the education and learning of our children and young people speak out more and challenge both the British Government and the DUP for holding the future of our children and our local economy to ransom."

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