David Ford stated: “The Bain Review provides a clear challenge to the Department of Education, and all of the sectarian-based parties vying to exercise devolved power.
“Deep problems in the school estate have been neglected for far too long. Over 50,000 empty places in Northern Ireland’s schools, rising to over 80,000, are simply not sustainable. Too much money is spent on empty school places at the expense of direct investment in pupils. A segregated system carries huge financial expense as well as serious social costs.
“We were the only political party to engage with the Bain Review. This shows how seriously other parties take the future of our education system, despite all of their public chest-beating. For us, only an increased focus on sharing in schools, with a particular emphasis on specifically integrated education, is the viable way forward.
“People have rightly been concerned that schools rationalisation has been proceeding on ad hoc basis within different sectors. This review now puts in place a rigorous framework for local area, cross-sectoral planning for schools. Rationalisation on the basis of bussing Catholic children in one direction and Protestant children in another is not a reasonable
“People will join us in welcoming the child-centred focus of the Report and its acknowledgement of the importance of a genuine ‘Shared Future’ for all our children.
“It is clear that the promotion of a shared future must be a primary consideration in the reform of the school estate. A menu of possible options is now clearly on offer. What must be regarded in many areas as the most viable approach is new build or transformed integrated schools. In other cases, the maximum amount of sharing of resources and
facilities will be in the best interests of both children and tax payers.”