The DUP has worked hard to improve the educational outcomes of our children through its leadership of the Education Committee. Moreover, we have launched a series of programmes through the Department of Social Development and the Office of the First Minister. The DUP has sought to promote excellence in our education system and maximise the potential of every young person by tackling educational underachievement.
These initiatives have included:
- almost 300 newly qualified teachers employed to deliver numeracy and literacy support, benefiting over 18,000 young people with big improvements reported;
- 300 young people supported under eight month full time United Youth Programme - tackling NEETs;
- almost 4000 young people participating in Summer Camps across Northern Ireland and
- 700 families supported under new Parenting Support Programme including enhanced health care visits.
The early years of a child are crucial in their development,as is access to school places. The DUP secured:
- 20 Nurture Units supported under ‘Delivering Social Change’ with incredible feedback from the 20 primary schools who participated and
- £12m for an innovative childcare strategy focusing on affordable models. Current actions will provide 8000 affordable places.
The DUP ended the under-representation of the Controlled Sector by securing the creation of Controlled Sector Support Council (CSSC). This is part of the DUP’s broader equality agenda in education.
The DUP kept student fees in Northern Ireland to year-on-year inflationary uplifts.
1. PROMOTING EXCELLENCE
The DUP will defend the parts of our education system that produce some of the best educational outcomes in the United Kingdom – in Northern Ireland 67% achieve 5 GCSE’s Grade A*-C including English and Maths, compared to 56% in England. These outcomes are a crucial factor in maintaining and promoting social mobility. We maintain our support for academic selection and wish to see a transfer process that is accessible and straightforward for children and parents.
2. GREATER AUTONOMY FOR SCHOOLS
The DUP wants to empower school Principals and Governors to end the top-down culture of the Department of Education. This can be achieved by giving control over budgets and resources to schools. Direct spend by schools in Northern Ireland is the lowest in the United Kingdom. The DUP will support schools to change this. Additionally, the DUP will restore a portable, accountable and open market in exam qualifications for schools.
3. A DIGITAL SKILLS REVOLUTION
With the growth of the knowledge economy and need for digital skills amongst the next generation, it is vital our education system is adaptable. We must enable young people to become digital citizens, digital workers and digital makers and ensure parents can help them develop these skills. This will involve embedding this programme at every stage of our education system. This will also require the development of new qualifications to demonstrate job skills and meet future business needs. This will be a central plank in our agenda to provide the broadest range of education pathways including vocational.
4. EARLY DIAGNOSIS AND INTERVENTION
Working alongside our commitment to increased investment in childcare, we will continue to work with family support mechanisms to develop an effective 0-3 strategy. We recognise the benefits of meaningful and timely early intervention and diagnosis. We will work to build upon the commitments of the SEND Act 2016 to ensure better and more timely co-ordination between education and health professionals, effective pupil tracking at school transfer and more specific training for classroom assistants and SENCOs.
5. DRIVING UP STANDARDS
The DUP is dedicated to driving up standards within our education system by tackling under-achievement and maximising the potential of every young person in Northern Ireland. We took the lead in creating the All-Party Group in Education Disadvantage to focus attention on those being left behind including working class Protestant males. A central element will be mainstreaming the Numeracy and Literacy Signature Project that increased teacher time with pupils to raise standards. The positive impact of the project was clearly demonstrated and it was a key failure of the Department of Education not to take it forward.
6. THE NEXT STEPS IN AN EDUCATION EQUALITY AGENDA
The DUP will seek to deliver equality for all school sectors including special needs schools. This includes tackling the preferential treatment of Irish Medium in school build, the abolition of the Catholic Teacher Training Certificate, an end to the Article 71 exemption for teaching from Fair Employment as well as a fairer and better funding formula for schools.
7. INVESTMENT IN SHARED EDUCATION
In the Fresh Start Agreement the DUP secured a £500m Treasury commitment to invest in shared education and housing over the next decade. The DUP will fully implement this programme. The DUP has also supported the Shared Education Bill. The DUP believes that sharing can produce educational, societal and economic benefits, without undermining sound academic standards or the values of schools.
8. UNIVERSITY FEES
The DUP remains fully committed to maintaining University fees at a level that will keep University places affordable and allow access to everyone in our society.