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Ulster Teachers’ Union

ATTACK ON ENTITLEMENT FRAMEWORK COULD RE-ENTRENCH BARRIERS

17th Jan 2017

Northern Ireland teachers have described as an ‘attack’ the Education Minster’s move to reduce the number of subjects which schools have to offer at GSCE and A-level.

“We fear this is an erosion of the very positive precepts which helped offer our children a shared future,” said Avril Hall Callaghan, General Secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union.

“This attack undermines the basics of the Entitlement Framework which blurred the lines between selective and non-selective schools and between controlled and maintained schools.

“The Entitlement Framework ensured that our children had the best possible access to a wide range of subjects – something which is vital in the increasingly competitive world for which we as parents, teachers and a society are preparing them.

“As not all schools individually were able to offer this range, it meant the development of learning networks in some areas so all children could benefit from the best teaching and facilities regardless of which school they attended.

“If one school had better facilities for a subject like drama, then pupils from other schools in the area studying that subject would travel to it for those lessons.

“A very positive by-product of this has been the resultant blurring of lines between Northern Ireland’s grammar and non- grammar schools. We have children from grammar schools attending lessons for some subjects in their local non-grammar school because it happens to have been facilities for a given subject – and vice versa.

“We have seen similar sharing of learning and experience between children from controlled and maintained schools.

 “The result is that not only have children had access to a wide range of subjects, but barriers have been broken down. Without this shared experience we risk re-entrenching sectarianism within the system.

“Do we really want to go back to the days when young people sometimes didn’t meet someone from a different religious community until they started work? What could be more conducive to a healthy society than facilitating our children to learn and grow together?

“Omagh’s Lisanelly shared campus which will ultimately bring together nursery, primary and secondary schools from the various sectors on a unified site shows what can be done on a greenfield plot.

“However, as not all towns can provide this, the Entitlement Framework offering children a larger range of subjects ensured that schools maximised their potential by sharing resources and expertise.

“It would be a retrograde step if this element of the framework was lost or undermined at this stage when so much has already been achieved.”