Speaking after the publication of the ILiAD report former Education Minister, Peter Weir DUP MLA for Strangford said;
“The ILiAD report published today is a substantial document covering links between educational attainment and deprivation with 26 issues identified by respondents. These are divided into areas which respondents believe enhance education and those which respondents inhibit education. Academic selection appears in both columns with those who support it responding with arguments that it enhances opportunity, and opponents arguing that it inhibits progress. The unsurprising opinion is that there is divided opinion in Northern Ireland on the subject.
It is therefore disappointing that some coverage of the report seeks to single out and focus on only one side of the argument and one side of the evidence, while at best giving cursory reference to the supportive counter position contained in the report. That does disservice to the report both in failing to convey any balance within the report, and also by concentrating on one issue to the exclusion of more significant aspects of the report.
It is unsurprising that Sinn Fein in particular are riding this hobby horse, but their ideological zealotry not only would lead to a system where educational advantage is much more entrenched through parental wealth but also to the exclusion of the other key interventions which could have real positive impacts on tackling educational underachievement. The criticism within the report on the advantage of private tuition ahead of selection has already been addressed by myself in lifting the ban on any primary school preparing their pupils, but ironically Sinn Fein opposed this action in helping to level the playing field.
The report highlights the many issues that we need to continue to address if we to make a real difference in tackling educational underachievement such as raising aspirations, embedding a culture of education, community involvement and choice within the curriculum. Correctly it identifies the “most important determinant” as being parental involvement, and there is a key challenge in ensuring we strengthen links between parents and education. It is these key targeted early interventions that are critical to educational success. If we simply concentrate on what happens at 11 we have missed the boat.”
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