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Department for Education
Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has set out her vision for the future of education.
The Minister was speaking at the annual conference of the Association of Education and Library Boards, held at the Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle.
The Minister told several hundred delegates: "I have a vision for a world class education system that values every child equally and that plays a crucial role in the development of a shared, tolerant and inclusive society which recognises and celebrates diversity.
"And that vision is to build an education system where every school is a good school that gives every child or young person an equal chance to reach their fullest potential. An education system that values individuals, irrespective of their social, religious or ethnic background."
The Minister also outlined for delegates the key priorities and policy areas under consideration. She said: "I have identified four key themes to help deliver my vision. These are;
- Enable every young learner to fulfil his or her potential
- Prepare every young learner for life
- Transform education for learners
- Support the education sector through this time of change
"We need to ensure equality of access to a high standard of education and tackle the barriers to children's learning. Our Revised Curriculum, with the focus on core skills will help achieve this. In addition we will develop and update policies that meet the needs from early years through to the provision of youth services.
"Our education system must be capable of producing creative, articulate young people who are able to contribute positively to society. We will introduce policies to tackle the problems of poor literacy and numeracy skills, which will improve the employment prospects of school leavers and help reduce levels of social deprivation.
"Through responsive education policies, we can make real differences to the lives of many people. We can give people the tools to help themselves, help them reduce levels of social need in their communities.
"Education is going through a period of major change and the establishment of the Education and Skills Authority will result from the most important reorganisation for thirty years. The establishment of ESA will help to improve outcomes for our children and young people, through giving clear leadership and direction to schools and youth settings, and improving access for all to high quality education.
"Our schools need to be of a high standard for our learners and teachers. The development of Area Based Planning will provide us with the opportunity to take a sensible joined up approach to sustain and develop our schools estate, taking account of the changing demographic picture."
The Minister also highlighted her support for teachers, who are a key element in the education of children and young people and recognised the work of the Education and Training Inspectorate.
Speaking about her views on academic selection, the Minister said: "I am in favour of academic excellence, but against the current system which brands so many of our children as failures.
"I have previously said that 11 is too early an age to make important educational decisions and that I believe 14 is the age when children make their choices for future career and employment opportunities.
"I want a new transfer system that has equality at its core and ignores social background. I will make my announcement on the way ahead when the time is right and when I am sure I have the right solution."
The Minister also spoke about the classroom assistants' dispute. She said: "I have made clear my wish to see an early settlement so that further disruption to our children's education can be avoided. I have met with all sides and have encouraged the classroom assistants to consider the details of the latest offer and to check how their personal situation may be affected.
The Minister concluded: "I welcome the proposal to involve the Labour Reistions Agency (LRA) and hope this positive step will bring a resolution closer."