Boys Model pupils testimony to the values that should permeate not just education but every aspect of society - Catherine Seeley
"I want to commend the ongoing programme of educational reform pursued by three successive Sinn Féin education Ministers aimed at bringing equality and social justice to the very heart of our education system and establishing a system, which serves all children equally.
As a teacher, I welcome in particular Minister John O’Dowd’s determined efforts to reform the school funding system.
The link between social deprivation and educational underachievement is irrefutable.
I can testify first hand to this and to the additional challenges faced by schools, teachers and pupils in areas, which suffer higher levels of deprivation.
Targeting additional resources at these schools is an important and vital step in breaking the link between deprivation and underachievement.
It is simply unacceptable that children from poorer backgrounds have only half the chance of achieving the qualifications attained by children who are better off.
And while it is equally unacceptable whether it applies to catholic children, protestant children or children from any other religious background or none, I want to draw particular attention to the underachievement among protestant working class boys.
Protestant working class boys are entitled to the same life prospects as everyone else. Politicians and educationalists who oppose the reform of the common funding formula are failing these children and need to be confronted and challenged.
And they should answer directly to the students and children they claim to represent.
And if they do, I am confident they will learn what my own recent experience has demonstrated, that students can be much wiser, more mature, more responsible and more respectful than some who claim to speak on their behalf.
In the past few weeks, in my role as a teacher, I have been subjected to a campaign of sectarian intimidation. I have already expressed my warm thanks to all who have offered me support, including family, friends, colleagues, educationalists and politicians from various parties.
I want to take this opportunity to publicly send a message of gratitude to those pupils of the Boys Model School in North Belfast who have courageously offered me their full support.
They are a testimony to the values that should permeate not just education but every aspect of society. They inspire hope and confidence in me for the future.
Go raibh mile maith agaibh."