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‘Think of children - not institutions’ Ruane

29 May, 2008

Sinn Féin Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has called on those involved in the education debate to focus on the needs of children and not the institutions that educate them.

Ms Ruane was speaking at the National Association of Head Teachers' (NAHT) annual local conference in Armagh today.

The Minister welcomed the positive role played by teaching unions in the changes currently affecting the education system. She went on to say:

"I am currently embarking on a crucial reform agenda affecting all stages of education. The Entitlement Framework will improve educational choice for children from the age of 14, whilst the roll-out of the revised curriculum is already benefiting children at all levels.

"I will also be bringing forward a sustainable schools policy which will, alongside area-based planning, lead to a framework of strong schools able to meet the diverse needs of our children.

"My Department is also finalising reviews into how we meet the educational needs of children who wish to be educated through the medium of Irish and of those with special educational needs.

"Alongside these reforms, I am also tackling the issue of post-primary transfer. I have presented proposals that will see an end to academic selection and will help us address the problems presented by a system that sees too many children leaving education each year with no qualifications and poor literacy and numeracy skills.

"The NAHT and its members provide leadership in schools. I am pleased to say you are also providing leadership in the education debate too. Last week I met representatives of the main teaching unions, including the NAHT. The message I heard was that politicians should think of children, not institutions, at this time of great change. I welcome and appreciate the support and leadership you have shown."

The Minister also spoke of the unacceptable nature of physical and verbal assaults on school staff. Ms Ruane said:

"Such assaults are totally unacceptable and we must build a culture of respect in our schools where these actions are not tolerated.

"That is why I am pleased that a workshop will be convened early in the new school year to identify how these problems can best be tackled. Employers, teaching unions and outside professionals, including the Health and Safety Executive and the PSNI, will be invited to work together to address this important issue.

"School staff deserve our full support and I will be taking a personal interest in this work as it progresses." ENDS

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