of the Bain Review. However, she stressed that government also needed to accept those findings of the report which make clear that there is still much work to be done to provide a full strategic plan for educational provision and that this cannot primarily be a cost-cutting exercise.
Naomi Long stated: “The Bain report is not creating a crisis in education, as some would claim. The crisis already exists and is, at least in part, due to the absence of any coherent strategy for future educational provision.
“Whilst the Bain report identifies many of the problems and makes certain recommendations, it does not, nor does it claim to, provide all of the answers. When taken in its entirety, it can provide a basis on which the Department of Education can begin to develop a coherent strategic plan. This must take into account not just the financial constraints but also, more importantly, the quality of educational provision and the important role which schools play in developing community cohesion.
“What is clear from the report is that we need to move towards a single, shared education system which is flexible enough to meet the religious, social, cultural and, most importantly, the educational needs of all children.
“We share the view expressed in the report that we need strategic, area-based plans for education, which take account of local communities and promote and maximize shared experience rather than the current sectoral rationalization, which is creating resentment, fracturing local linkages and further entrenching segregation and division within local communities.
“No-one, and certainly not the Bain Report, is advocating a purely numbers-driven formula for school viability. However, in the absence of a coherent, area-based strategy, many schools are suffering “death by a thousand cuts” and ad hoc school closures are continuing which could jeopardize any future strategy.
“We welcome a commitment to move this forward as a matter of urgency; however, the Government must also heed the report when it states that this is not just about saving money, but about freeing up funds to reinvest in improving the quality of provision.
“The Bain Report is a good starting point, and intensive work is now required to ensure that we can give local children the best education possible.”