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Report exposes ministerial inaction on educational disadvantage, says Lyttle

Alliance Education spokesperson Chris Lyttle MLA has said a new report into educational underachievement shows just how much the Education Minister has failed to tackle the issue.

The Chair of the Assembly’s Education Committee was speaking as Peter Weir released ‘A Fair Start’. Among its recommendations, it states all children should go to pre-school for at least four and a half hours a day and more investment should be put into early years education.

“I thank the expert panel for the detailed cross departmental plan of actions – many of which been identified for over a decade,” said Mr Lyttle.

“We have long talked about the need for a focus on and investment in early education, including full-time pre-school for all and an early years strategy. Yet it took the parents of special school pupils to prevent a reduction in special school nursery hours and we still don’t have an SEN early years framework or Childcare Strategy.

“The report discusses the need for a whole school community approach to education, yet in my own constituency of East Belfast, the Eastside Learning Partnership has been campaigning for mainstream funding since 2014.

“Teachers have been crying out for years for improved access to continued professional development, and principals have been asking for adequate support for their schools, pupils and staff. It hasn’t happened.

“The report refers to academic selection as a 'systemic inequality' that needs 'priority' action, and the Assembly has voted for change and yet the Education Minister has dogmatically opposed any such reform.

"We can talk and talk but unless the Education Minister decides to take decisive action, we will be back talking about this again, while the educational inequalities continue and our children remain disadvantaged.”