DUP MP for Upper Bann Carla Lockhart has said the Alliance Party’s Integrated Education Bill will see many local schools in the controlled and maintained sectors discriminated against when it comes to funding, new school builds, and other forms of investment in children’s education.
Carla Lockhart said:
“I spend considerable time engaging with local schools and funding is an issue that is raised right across the board, particularly in the controlled sector and maintained sectors. These are the vast majority of primary and post-primary schools in this area. On a regular basis I get emails from parents whose children attend a certain primary school or secondary school, and the ask if for the NI Executive to provide new school builds or money for new resources.
This is because every parent wants the best education for their children. I know when my son goes to school, I will him to have the same chance as any other pupil to fulfil his potential.
To help deliver this, fairness in the provision of education is vital. That is why I am opposed to the Integrated Education Bill being proposed by the Alliance Party, currently before the Northern Ireland Assembly.
This Bill seeks to bestow upon the integrated education sector special privileges, that would not be shared with children who attend schools in the controlled and maintained sector.
This favouritism would be manifested in the financial support given to schools. It would mean new build projects for the integrated sector being prioritised over all others. Yet when I go around this constituency, I see established post primary and post-primary schools needing significant investment. Under this Alliance-led Bill, these schools would be left even further behind.
This is wrong. It seems absurd that those who champion ‘equality’, seek to create the most unequal start to life for our children. And whilst they package it as seeking to promote the coming together of children of all backgrounds in schools, Alliance ignores the reality that this already happens in controlled and maintained schools already.
This Bill is ill thought out and would let down the vast majority of children in Northern Ireland. That is why my colleagues at Stormont are opposing it.
I would encourage concerned parents to reach out to other parties to join us in that opposition, not least the Ulster Unionist Party, who seem to be unaware that in supporting it they are condemning so many local children in Portadown, Lurgan, Banbridge and the surrounding villages and countryside to ‘third-tier’ support from Government for their education, behind integrated and Irish-medium sectors.
Furthermore, I would encourage school leaders and the Board of Governors of local schools to speak out against this highly discriminatory move that will disadvantage their schools. This Bill could set the course of millions of pounds of spending. Now is the time to ensure everyone has their fair share.”