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Minister for Education John O'Dowd - Address to Sinn Féin Ard Fheis 2011

9 September, 2011 - by John O'Dowd


Mol an óige tiocfaidh an sí – Praise the young and they shall flourish.

Now in our third term in the department of Education in the Northern Assembly, Sinn Féin, have once again set out quite clearly our intention to do just that, Mol an oige Tiocfaidh an si.

As a party we have clearly set out our intention to continue to praise the young, to promote equality, to promote learning and to empower our people, young and old to build a new Ireland,

It is our mission to build a new nation, where citizens, through learning, value themselves as individuals who have a beneficial contribution to make to society and the economy.

At this Ard Fhéis I want to put on record our party’s appreciation of, Caitríona Ruane’s, work and undaunted commitment to education, and on behalf of our party I want to acknowledge her commitment to the promotion of equality and the ending of educational underachievement. Go raibh mile maith agat, Caitríona.

Through our first Minister of Education, Martin McGuiness, and then through Caitríona, we as a party have celebrated all that is good within our education system and we have quite rightly challenged all that is wrong within our education system. As the current Education Minister I will continue that course of action on behalf of Sinn Féin.

I am able and pleased to report to our Ard Fheis that as a result of our commitment to change, we are beginning to witness a turnaround in educational under achievement. The latest figures show an improvement in the number of young people leaving school with good qualifications but we cannot and we will not be complacent.

The polices this party introduced, such as, the Every School a Good School policy, the Sustainable Schools policy , the Irish Medium review and our continued drive towards the implementation of the Entitlement Framework, are all delivering a change in education. And they are delivering positive change to young people lives
We continue to challenge the use of Academic selection.

Our position is clear. The use of Academic selection to grade young people is wrong. We met the challenge and others now need to step forward and accept their responsibilities. , 3 of the 5 parties which sit around the Executive table are opposed to Academic Selection. , there is a challenge to the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, the Trade Union movement and leaders in the Business sector.

I ask, not for you to come out to support and implement Sinn Féin policy, I ask that you support and implement your own policy and make the final push and bring to an end the out dated, educationally unsound, marketing device, based on the rejection of 11 year old children.

As the Assembly resumes I will be outlining the, Next Steps in Education, I will set out the detail of how we will face the challenges and opportunities ahead. I will set out our plan for making the school estate it meet the requirements of a 21st century education system.

We have to recognise the reality of 50,000 empty school desks; we have to deal with the challenges presented by the British government imposed cuts to the budget.

No school, and no sector, regardless of their history will be able to, stand alone in the delivery of education, nor should they be allowed to,. Politicians in the North were rightly told to break down barriers and share power, it is now time to start sharing education, not only across religious lines, but also across the socio economic divide
Education as with so many other services on the Island of Ireland can only benefit from greater integration at local and national level, the border should not and it will not be allowed to stand in the way of educational attainment.

I will work with my counterpart in Dublin, Minister Ruairi Quinn, to break down barriers real and perceived. Together we can improve the conditions and learning experiences of both pupils and teachers across this Island and I believe there is a will in both administrations to work together.

Through education we can help eradicate poverty, we can tackle discrimination, instil the ethos of equality and bring quality to the life of each citizen, each neighbourhood and each community, across society.

Education is the engine of the economy and through education we will empower our citizens to fashion an economy that delivers for them as valued citizens in an Ireland of Equals.

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