SDLP Education Spokesperson Daniel McCrossan has said it will be impossible to transform schools across the North without adequate funding.
He was speaking after the Independent Review of Education published its recommendations on Wednesday.
Mr McCrossan broadly welcomed the recommendations, but said significant funding, effectively and efficiently targeted, particularly in the early years, would be needed to implement them.
West Tyrone MLA Mr McCrossan said:
“The Independent Review of Education has identified many of the problems that exist within our schools. Unfortunately our principals, teachers and other school staff are all too aware of the issues that exist, having been working tirelessly to provide our children with the best education possible, while their budgets are slashed year after year.
“We have a huge job of work ahead of us when it comes to dealing with long-standing problems, including underachievement, especially in disadvantaged areas, ensuring that those with special educational needs get the support they need, equipping our young people with the skills necessary for our future workforce and placing greater emphasis on early years education to tackle these issues efficiently.
“Today’s report has rightfully identified the chronic underfunding of our education system over many years and I’m delighted to see a focus on supporting early years, particularly helping to tackle SEN and disadvantage more effectively and efficiently. Other proposals will need to be given further consideration and we will consider the details carefully. However, common to dealing with all of these problems is a need for investment in our education system. School funding per head in the North is significantly lower than other parts of these islands, £450 per pupil less than those in Britain. There has also been a huge real-terms cut in funding over the past decade, the Education Authority has previously identified a funding need of over £250m just to stand still and we all know that education systems that stand still are actually in decline. Our children deserve better.
“Unless we can find the money needed to transform our education system, including paying our teachers and other school staff a fair wage and investing in their professional development, then we will be failing our young people and the present dire situation will only get worse. A properly funded education system is vital if we want all of our children to realise their full potential. That is something the SDLP Opposition team will be making abundantly clear to any new Executive. Education is an investment in our children and in the future, not an expense.”