Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Chris Hazzard MLA has called on the SDLP to explain why they voted with a DUP motion last night, which was designed to prevent the targeting of social need within our education system.Mr Hazzard said:
"The SDLP have unfortunately taken the decision to abandon the principle of objective need as they have supported the DUPs attempts to sectarianise the issue of educational underachievement and support their stance that free school meal entitlement is not an indicator of poverty.
"For some time now the SDLP have been telling us that they were advocates of using objective need when utilising resources to tackle the effect of poverty on our pupils learning experience, but last night they have apparently reneged on this fundamental principle of progressive politics.
"In supporting this motion the SDLP have demonstrated their willingness to buy into the sectarian myth peddled by the DUP that mitigating the effects of social disadvantage can be analysed through the lens of community background – and that the community in most need is the Protestant community.
"This stands in stark contrast to the facts of the matter, indeed multi-deprivation figures regularly illustrate that while the effects of poverty are evidenced across all sections of our community, it is within predominantly Catholic wards that the effects of poverty are most keenly felt.
"A recent Labour Force Report examining economic activity based on community background identified the local Catholic community as suffering from higher levels of economic inactivity, higher levels of unemployment, higher levels of single parent families and lower levels of home ownership.
"Sinn Féin remain committed to targeting social need regardless of creed. We want to give additional resources to schools regardless of the religion of the pupil and we will do that on the basis of need, not creed.
"The SDLP must come forward and clarify their position. Surely they could not have abandoned the principle of objective need and indeed the Catholic and Protestant working class all in one night."