Ulster Unionist candidate for Mid-Ulster and Education Spokesperson, Sandra Overend, has expressed her deep concern for the future of education in Northern Ireland and if re-elected commits to continue to work for the benefit of children, young people and their families long into the future.
Mrs Overend said:
“It has been a dark era in the education sector since 1998 with Sinn Fein and DUP at the helm. We have seen disinvestment, cuts and closures. This has culminated most recently with the emergence of a funding crisis in our schools – teachers forced to go on strike, targets placed on small rural schools and proposals made to close Outdoor Education Centers and cut free school transport.
“As Ulster Unionist Education Spokesperson and an Education Committee member for over 2 years as well as past Vice-Chair, I have developed a strong working knowledge of the challenges facing our education system. Education, alongside health, is one of the key issues which face ordinary people everyday. If re-elected I will continue to support better investment in the education of our children and in the teaching workforce. The teachers’ pay dispute has gone on for too long and needs resolved immediately, we know from recent events that wastage in the Assembly is rife so holding teachers and schools to ransom on this issue is completely unnecessary.
“I also support strategic investment in Special Education Needs education, Early Years education and affordable childcare so that children and families have the support they need from the beginning of a child’s life until they reach adulthood. We also must finally tackle some of the longstanding systemic issues in schools like educational underachievement and the issue of post-primary transfer. For too long both of these problems have been brushed under the carpet with no solutions found. We will take immediate action on these issues with the interests of parents, teachers and pupils at the fore.
“I will also continue the fight to ensure that the process of Area Planning is reformed to become more fair, more equitable and allow communities to structure their local schools from the bottom up. For too long there has been a top down approach to Area Planning – we must allow communities, parents and pupils to shape their own future and ensure that isolated communities are protected against unnecessary closures. I recently introduced a motion to the house on the introduction of a statutory protection against unnecessary rural school closures – this was opposed by both DUP and Sinn Fein who amended the motion and removed these protections.
“The Ulster Unionist Party has a vision for education and it certainly isn’t characterised by cuts and closures. It is characterised by care, support and success. We believe that children in Northern Ireland deserve the very best education available. We want to look to some of the examples of excellence in education from across the world and by bringing our children together in the classroom tackling the long standing separation of children in our schools.
“It really is about time that action is taken. We must ‘Vote for Change’ on 2nd March.’