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McCartney - disadvantage in education reflects inequality in society

29 March, 2003


Sinn Féin Derry Assembly candidate Raymond McCartney speaking at the party's Ard Fheis said: 'The seeds of educational disadvantage are sown early. Disadvantage in education reflects inequality in society at large.' Mr. McCartney said:

The Foyle constituency suffers form the highest level of unemployment in the North and many of the schools in the constituency have populations with 30 to 50% of children entitled to Free School Meals --the indicdator of social need currently used by the Department of Education. In order to be entitled to Free School Meals, a child must have parents who are unemplolyed or on very low income.

In the North approximately 50 percent live in poverty or at risk of poverty. This policy document makes a strong plea for tackling disadvantage at an educational level.

It stresses the importance of the involvement of parents and the community in the process of education.

The seeds of educational disadvantage are sown early. Disadvantage in education reflects inequality in society at large. However some school systems are better at reducing inequality in society at large. Some school systems are better at reducing inequality than others. Otherwise the relationship between school performance and home background would be the same from country to country.

It is clear that educational disadvantage is born not at school but in the home. And I would add, in the commuity. What has helped mitigate the crushing impact

In the South currently there is a debate on the validity of the system of indicators used to select 'designated disadvantaged schools': it is obviously biased towards urban areas and does not reflect the fact that educational disadvantage is largely concentrated in rural areas. It is obvious to me that we need an all-Ireland strategy to address this problem.

Our policy document commits us to working for an all Ireland anti poverty strategy based on an all-island wide deprivation index and proportionate targeting of funds to those areas of greatest social and educational needs on both sides of the border.

This document goes further than stating our policy. It calls on us to continue with our work of shaping government policy in Ireland and bring about an Ireland of Equals.

I ask you to give this document your support today. More than this I ask you to work hard to bring about the vision that is contained in this document. We are not about the wrongs of the past, we are about building for the future, as socialists and republicans

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