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Durkan challenged to set out SDLP position on education reform

2 May, 2008

Sinn Féin Assembly group leader John O'Dowd MLA has challenged SDLP leader Mark Durkan to spell out the party's position on academic selection and education reform.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"We are now in the midst of a concerted effort to undermine the Education Minister ahead of her announcement on the 15th of May, led largely by those who are fundamentally opposed to the ending of the 11 plus and a new beginning of the education system.

"These are people who want to defend their advantages against the need for far reaching changes to improve the educational options of those totally failed by the old system. They are being aided and abetted by a great deal of political opportunism.

"Mark Durkan needs to set out clearly whether he is in charge of a party that supports social justice or if the SDLP support a form of education apartheid the condemns many of our children and young people to a future of unemployment and deprivation.

"It is clear that we need fundamental reform of the education system where all schools work together, where there are options for all children to benefit from the very best opportunities on offer and where academic segregation is a thing of the past. It is a myth to say that academic excellence depends on designating any child a failure.

"The SDLP need to put party politics to the side and clearly come out in favour of change.

"While it is frustrating that many unionist politicians cling to a system that so clearly fails many of the communities they claim to represent, particularly working class protestant communities, it is now time for the SDLP and all other voices who want to see a better future for all our children to make their position clear." ENDS

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