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Education and Teaching Professions under threat

19 January, 2006

Sinn Féin's Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson has reiterated his Party's opposition to 'Top up Fees' in the wake of the University of Ulster revealed that its registration figures for Post Graduate Certificates in Education (PGCE) Courses are down 200 since last year and acknowledged that the prospect of incurring debt is deterring applicants pursuing academic qualifications for careers in teaching.

Commenting upon the UU report Michael Ferguson said,

"This is not a surprise and saying 'we told you so' gives no satisfaction. Last year we had the Government's own Think Tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies announce that the Governments figures on incurred debt by students under the new Top up Fee system due to commence this year was wrong and that the debt incurred by undergraduates in particular would double.

"At the end of last year we were informed that because of the British government's slashing of school budgets we had lost over 500 teachers in two years and this was accompanied by statements from the INTO at the beginning of this year expressing concern about the precious low number of male teachers in the Primary School sector.

"The 'Top up Fee' system is having an adverse impact and those most affected will be applicants from low and middle income families. It is now clear that the system will have a knock on impact on our Education System and further reduce those willing to pursue teaching careers.

"The 'Top up Fee' system should be abolished along with student fees because education and access to education is basic human right and should be free at the point of entry.

"This will be an issue that I will be discussing at Sinn Fein's Education Forum Conference this Saturday in Derry." ENDS

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