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Education Minister addresses teachers and lecturers conference

3 June, 2011 - by John O'Dowd

Raising educational standards and delivering improved outcomes for young people is a top priority.

That was the message from Education Minister, John O’Dowd, as he addressed the the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) Annual Conference.

Speaking at the event in Belfast, the Minister said: “Since becoming Education Minister I have been keen to engage with educational partners across the spectrum. I welcome the opportunity to meet with the ATL as representatives of the classroom practitioners who play such a pivotal role in our education system.

“A top priority for me during my term of office will be raising standards and delivering improved outcomes for young people. Education plays a central role in the development of a modern and prosperous society and economy. Many of our young people do well at school and achieve good results. Last week, for example, figures were released which showed continued improvement in the achievement of our school leavers at GCSE and A-Level. We should rightly celebrate that success and I pay tribute to the work of the teachers who have helped make it possible. But the figures were also a reminder, if one were needed, of the major disparities entrenched within our system.

“Young people from disadvantaged communities are half as likely to achieve five good GCSEs including English and Maths. They are more than half as likely to achieve two or more A-level passes and to enter higher education. The gulf is wide, it is damaging to our young people and our economy, and it is unacceptable.

“During my time on the Education Committee, I had the opportunity to hear at first hand from the many schools already putting the school improvement policy – Every School a Good School - into practice. Those schools show that, where we have effective leadership and high aspirations, high quality teaching and learning, child-centred provision, and strong links with parents and the community, it is possible to achieve good outcomes for our most disadvantaged young people.”

The Minister went on to comment on the particular importance of literacy and numeracy and the important role that teachers have in raising standards.

He said: “Literacy and numeracy are fundamental to a young person’s future employability and to our economy. Standards are rising, but we still have substantial challenges. The new strategy, 'Count, read: succeed', sets out a renewed focus on literacy and numeracy. Teachers have the central role in this strategy, for it is through the work of teachers in classrooms across the north that we will raise standards and close the achievement gaps that currently exist. Teachers, along with school leaders and parents, will get the support they need to raise standards. I firmly believe that by fostering a more collaborative approach, involving all educational stakeholders, we can become a driving force for improvement.

“Much good work has been done in recent years to raise standards but we clearly have some real challenges to address, not least the financial climate we currently face. I look forward to working with all our stakeholders to address these challenges and to deliver improvements in educational attainment for all our young people.”

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