Letters to the Editor, ‘Department of Education policy should be fairly implemented’

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Wednesday, May 1st, 2013
Community, Letters to the Editor
Dear Editor, The Department of Education’s sustainable schools policy sets out six key criteria to be considered in assessing a school’s viability. The six criteria are quality educational experience; stable enrollment trends; a sound financial position; strong leadership and management; accessibility; and strong links with the community. The provision of quality education is the overriding policy consideration. The approach taken in the recent review of primary schools has collapsed the six into three criteria, namely the first three mentioned above. The reports on schools reviewed reveal that no emphasis was given to the quality of education. The public were told time and time again that the process was not a numbers game and that the quality of education would be the overriding consideration. In fact, what we got, was purely a numbers game with no emphasis given to the quality of education or the other contextual criteria. The Department of Education, having spent years constructing a sustainable schools’ policy then proceeded to ignore it and apply only two of the six criteria. Generalised assumptions about smaller schools were applied across the board and all were painted with the same brush whether relevant or not. This approach of ignoring agreed policy calls into question the validity of the review process which has cherry-picked two out of six criteria to ensure predetermined outcomes. If there is an agreed policy in place then it should be adhered to and implemented – not manipulated to suit particular ends. It is not surprising that many communities are angry in relation to the way the reviews were carried out and are questioning the outcomes. The Minister of Education needs to step in and ensure that his own Department’s policy is properly and fairly implemented across all six criteria in this process. Dominic Bradley SDLP MLA for Newry and Armagh
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