Holiday Meals scheme must be funded

Workers Party representative in South Belfast, Patrick Lynn has written to the acting Education Minister Michelle McIlveen demanding that she takes the necessary steps to ensure that holiday meals money is made available this summer.

The £22m needed to fund the school summer holiday home meals scheme is claimed to be ’frozen’ because the Executive is not currently functioning due to the DUP refusing to nominate a Speaker or Deputy First Minister.

“Ninety-eight thousand children here will be dependent on these payments for regular meals during the summer holidays”, Patrick said.

” Whatever the arguments about process, and how the money can or cannot be released, the imperative is that the scheme is fully funded and that children’s health, well being and nutrition are protected,” he said.

“I have written to the Acting Education Minister Michelle McIlveen demanding that she contacts her fellow Ministers to secure their agreement to release the money immediately. This is not only possible but it has a precedent with other Ministers releasing money from their budgets for other schemes,” Patrick explained.

“There can be no excuses for depriving children of food and nutrition. There must be no excuses. If golf clubs and businesses can be given cash subsidies of over £22 billion, then vulnerable children can also be provided for.” concluded Patrick

Every Day’s a Segregated School Day

The political power bases which have been secured and developed since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement depend absolutely on a divided and segregated society.

The inescapable reality is that integrated education is being deliberately side-lined by the Assembly. MLAs from the DUP, Sinn Fein and other parties continue to go to great lengths to find reasons why children should not be educated together.

Last week’s debate on a private member’s bill to progress integrated education exposed the real differences between the rhetoric and the reality.

Of course, everyone thought integrated education was a good idea…. but not now and not here.

The Education Minister, the DUP’s Michele McIlveen called the bill ‘unwelcome and unhelpful’, Sinn Fein said the bill needed ‘serious and significant changes’. Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd, himself a former Education Minister, spelt out what some of those changes might involve when he claimed ‘The identity in it (integrated schooling) is not neutral – in many of them it is British.’

The Good Friday Agreement placed a statutory obligation on the Executive and the Assembly to facilitate the development of integrated education. They have not only singularly failed to honour that requirement, they have collectively connived to avoid it.

The political power bases which have been secured and developed since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement depend absolutely on a divided and segregated society. That’s the basis of both the DUP’s and Sinn Fein’s joint electoral and political strategy.

‘The DUP / Sinn Fein Coalition has deliberately sought to, not only side-line the principle and practice of integrated education, but to substitute and promote a ‘shared’ education agenda which is little more than a political fig leaf to justify the continued segregation of our children into religious and political tribes and offers no alternative to those parents who want more for their children

Last week’s debate demonstrates, if further proof were needed, that both these parties have taken a decision between themselves to carve up Northern Ireland into two sectarian camps and feed off the fear, mistrust and ignorance that it generates.

When voters opt for DUP, Sinn Fein and similar candidates at the polls this is what they are voting for. Intentionally or not support for these parties is support for segregation, division a denied future, and all that that involves.

Trust the teachers

*** UPDATE***

Since this statement was issued yesterday afternoon, the Minister for Education, Peter Weir, has announced that all GCSE grades will be based on teachers’ assessments

***

Current system is unfair to pupils and teachers

Ahead of the announcement of GCSE grades later this week, Workers Party spokesperson Nicola Campbell has called on the Education Minister and the Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) not to compound the fiasco they created around A Level grades, but instead to “abandon the algorithm model and put your trust in teachers”.

The Minster and the CCEA cannot continue to defend the indefensible”, Nicola said. “The academic future of thousands of local pupils is at stake and those involved in last week’s grades fiasco should admit that they got it wrong and place their faith in the judgement of the teachers and the grades that they have assessed”, she said.

“Scotland has already reviewed its decision on the awarding of grades and  England has introduced the ‘triple lock’, but the Minister of Education here doggedly refuses to even recognise the problem he has helped to create or the inequity which it is causing” Nicola pointed out

“The awarding of GCSE grades under the existing system will be made all the worse by the heavy reliance on the past performance of the school, dismissing the efforts of this year’s pupils”, she said

“If anyone doubted the class nature of education then this is a wakeup call”

“This represents a blatant and deliberate policy of a leg up for high achieving  schools at the expense of the pupils from more socially disadvantage backgrounds, further compounding the gap between the two” said Nicola.

“This is grossly unfair of those students awaiting their results. The Minister must act immediately; recognise the expertise and competence of our teachers and base GCSE grades on their professional judgements”, Nicola concluded.

Grades model not fit for purpose

Many questions remain unanswered about this process

‘Today’s exam results show that the model being used to determine ‘A Level’ grades is clearly not fit for purpose and that the criteria being used to reach these decisions must be published for all to see’ says Party spokesperson Joanne Lowry.

‘ It beggars belief’ , she said, that Education Minister Peter Weir and the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA) refuse to accept that major mistakes have been made and that these will adversely effect the livelihoods and future prospects of thousands of local pupils’

‘Many questions remain unanswered about this process’, Joanne said.

Did the CCEA or the Minister deliberately limit the number of pupils receiving A and A* grades?

To what extent was a school’s ‘past performance’ a factor in determining pupils’ grades?

Was ‘ past performance’ applied universally across all schools?

Have non-grammar schools been disproportionately effected?

‘As if to add insult to injury we are told that the measures taken were to ensure the integrity of the education system. This is the same education system that still has selection at 11, educates Catholics and Protestant children separately, has separate teacher education colleges and has 52% of non grammar school pupils leaving school with a minimum of five GCSEs’, she said.

Scotland, England and Wales have already reviewed and amended their grading systems. Northern Ireland remains unchanged. Nothing short of full transparency and a recognition of the long term damage caused to a generation of A level and GSCE students can turn this educational fiasco around’, Joanne concluded

Grades fiasco a class wake up call

A school’s previous academic record must not feature in the awarding of A level grades

The A Level results fiasco, created by the Minister and the Department of Education, must be resolved immediately, and in an open, transparent manner”, the Workers Party has said.

Party spokesperson Joanne Lowry has called for the previous academic record of a school to be removed from the equation when determining pupils grades.

“If anyone ever doubted the class nature of education then this is a wake up call” she said.

“This represents a blatant and deliberate policy of a leg up for high achieving  schools at the expense of the pupils from more socially disadvantage backgrounds, further compounding the gap between the two” said Joanne.

“It is bad government but also grossly unfair of those students awaiting their results”, she said. “Scotland has already reviewed its decision on the awarding of grades, England has introduced the ‘triple lock’, but the Minister of Education here doggedly refuses to even recognise the problem he has helped to create, or the inequity which it is causing”, said Joanne.

“A school’s previous academic record must not feature in the awarding of A level grades and the minister should state that clearly and immediately”, concluded Joanne