Education change "for the sake of improvement": Bell

Speaking in the Assembly debate on the Gallagher Report, Eileen Bell said:

“This resolution is timely, insofar that we should state, LOUD AND CLEAR, that consultation on this important issue should be as wide, as comprehensive and, of course, as effective as possible.

“We must ensure that all interested parties, from teachers to parent, will be adequately consulted, so that, as far as possible, the most satisfactory outcome is achieved for the good of all the pupils that it will affect.

“Again, I have to say, Mr Speaker, that I find this resolution extremely timely, because of the Press Release which outlined the first stages of the consultation process. The meetings so far planned are to be by invitation only, for school principals and representatives of educational and other related organisations in the field.

“We are told that public meetings will be held by the Review Body when they set up their programme. I await the details of these meetings with great interest, and I trust that they will be both many and widespread, and that they will be held in the very near future !

“There are a great number of parents, with 7, 8 and 9 year- old children, who are fervently hoping that they, and theirs, will not have to deal with the stresses currently endured by P5 and P6 pupils and their families. These parents not only want to attend the meetings, but are entitled to have their say, to have their questions answered and to have their heart-felt concerns met. These are the people who need to be listened to, and to be reassured that, whatever option is finally chosen, it is the best way forward for their children, and indeed, all the children of Northern Ireland.

“We, in the Alliance party, will be looking closely at the record of all-ability integrated schools, as they will show us how a modern comprehensive system might look.

“I am sure that all sections of our community will approach this in a constructive way, because it must be clearly seen to be an all-inclusive real consultation, that is not predetermined at any stage by ‘ experts ‘, but will ensure that we get the education system that our society, our economy, but, most of all, our children deserve.

“Finally, Mr Speaker, it goes without saying that our current system, which brands a large number of our future citizens FAILURES when they have lived, at most, 1/6th of their lives must be radically changed, but it also must be said that we do not want change for the sake of change, but change for the sake of improvement.“

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