‘Slow progress on early years education strategy a disservice to young’ – Rogers

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Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

SDLP Education Spokesperson Seán Rogers has welcomed news from the Education Minister that his department is “moving towards” a strategy on early years education, but is disappointed at how slow that movement has been. The South Down MLA was speaking after Minister O’Dowd gave a statement on the strategy to the Assembly this week.

Speaking to Newry Times, Rogers said: “Obviously any movement towards a coherent and sustainable strategy on early years education is welcome, but it is movement at a glacial pace. Two years after the Minister’s predecessor opened the consultation and over a year since the consultation was extended, we are only now hearing of a degree of progress, but only in nebulous terms. All the while, even though we know the benefits of early years education, there are young children unable to benefit from it because of a lack of strategic leadership from the department – what is to happen to those children?”

“I must pay fulsome tribute not just to the efforts of our excellent early years education providers who do tremendous work with hundreds of children but also to those parents who play such an important part in the education of their children too. It is only when homes and educationalists work together in partnership that our children benefit most from the educational environment, so I would also call for more parenting programmes to be included in any future strategy.”

He added, “The Minister needs to firm up his strategy overall, but with regard to strand two of his current plans – the targeting of support to children in disadvantaged areas – I would hope that extra support would be widened beyond the criterion of socio-economic disadvantage and include all those children who are educationally disadvantaged, regardless of geographic or political area.

“More work is needed, and the SDLP will not be behind the door in pushing for the Minister to pick up the pace of progress so more of our children can benefit from the nurture of education from an early age.”

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