The new Education Minister has criticised a PUP report on educational underachievement for failing to discuss the impact of paramilitarism in loyalist areas.
Last year PUP deputy leader Dr John Kyle published a report, Firm Foundations, based on work by the Unionist Forum, which was set up in response to the loyalist flag protests in 2012.
Asked if he was likely to have a working partnership of any sort with Dr Kyle based on the report, new minister Peter Weir replied: “There are a lot of points in it I would otherwise agree with, but we differ on a couple of points, for example the PUP is hostile to academic selection.”
He would agree with the PUP on the importance of “early intervention” and “positive [educational] role models” he said.
“But paramilitarism was the elephant in the room which was not mentioned in the PUP report.
“It was one aspect that is not helpful to education achievement among young Protestant males in particular that was surprisingly not mentioned by the PUP in their report.”
Asked would he be likely to have any sort of working partnership with the PUP on the issues, he replied: “There are quite a number of reports which address the underachievement raised in the PUP report.”
The department has more recently taken on wide responsibility for child care issues which will provide great opportunities for early interventions.
There are encouraging projects in this area on the Shankill and west Belfast as well as Lisburn, he added.