It is time for an independent, root-and-branch review of education

As the summer term ended, it seems we heard only bad reports from the NI education system. Schools are in desperate financial straits and principals have united to highlight the effects of budget cuts. These effects are also felt by parents.

Thursday, 26th July 2018, 10:33 pm
Updated Friday, 27th July 2018, 4:04 am
Volunteers acting as classroom assistants were among examples parents gave of the impact of the financial crisis

As the NI Children’s Commissioner pointed out in her ‘Cost of Education’ report late last year, parents subsidise our “free” education system, spending more than £1000 a year on school-related costs.

The burden on families is getting heavier. A survey commissioned by the IEF from independent polling company LucidTalk in February asked parents for any examples of the impact of the financial crisis in schools.

The hundreds of responses included volunteers acting as classroom assistants and parents having to supply basic stationery items and craft materials — or even contribute to painting and maintaining the school.

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So it is not unexpected that the majority of the 1,520 people responding to the survey would support structural change to the education system, since it offers the possibility of using public money more efficiently and spending more at classroom level.

The Children’s Commissioner followed up last year’s report with an urgent call for

… debate and consultation on how we fund education … and whether resources can be identified, streamlining the education system and reducing duplication, to ensure that all children have access to an effective education … [Statement on Children’s Rights in NI June 2018]

In the IEF’s ‘Alternative Manifesto’, we present our vision for a united community and a shared future, reflected in and supported by a reformed education system. Restructuring the way we deliver education can also result in better use of resources, directing more of the budget to where it is most needed: the classroom.

Independent analysts have been brought in to look at our policing and our health system.

Surely it’s time for an independent, root-and-branch review of education. As the LucidTalk poll showed, 83% of people would welcome it.

After a glorious summer holiday, knowing we were about to embark on a path to a new education system might make starting the new term that bit easier.

Ken Cathcart, Chair, Integrated Education Fund