ALLIANCE Assembly member for South Antrim, David Ford, has accused the Education Minister of having a limited and short term view on the future of education in Antrim.
Mr Ford said that a decision not to fund a community audit on post-primary schools in Antrim meant the Minister lacked a strategic approach that could end up costing millions rather than thousands of pounds.
Mr Ford stated:
“Demand for integrated education in Antrim is growing, but without a strategic approach to the future of post-primary provision, what we will end up with is a piecemeal process. It makes sense to spend a few thousand pounds now on an audit to look at where education in Antrim is heading, rather than to plough ahead regardless, ignoring the demand for integrated education.
“Following the public meetings held by the NEELB recently, I wrote to the Minister and called on him to initiative a strategic review of post-primary education in Antrim. His response is most disappointing. While Mr Gardiner talks about the need for a strategic approach, and emphasises that this was part of the Costello Report, he has failed to do anything about the looming crisis in Antrim.
“The Minister’s letter is full of platitudes about working together and partnerships. But there was not a single suggestion on dealing with the current needs of Antrim children.
“Only the Minister can bring together the Board, CCMS and NICIE to look at the needs of all 11 to 18-year-olds in Antrim. Yet he told me that he would ask his officials to discuss proposals with NEELB, with no reference to the other bodies.
“This is simply not good enough. A Government which claims to want to save money, and claims to be committed to a strategic approach to the future of education, is failing on both grounds.
“The Minister has abdicated his responsibilities, and is storing up problems for the future. The victims of his failure will be all the children of Antrim as they approach the age of 11.”