Schools ‘excellence must not be comprised’ - union

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A “system of excellence in Northern Ireland’s education system must not be compromised”, an Ulster Teachers’ Union official has stressed.

Audrey Stewart, who is also a former head of Olderfleet Primary School, has issued a statement following the publication of statistics which show that the United States is now the only major economy in the world where the younger generation will not be better educated that the older,

“Downward mobility must not be allowed to infect the Northern Ireland education system,” said Audrey.

“Despite the excellent attainment of our best children, there is still too big a gap between them and the poorest performing students – two groups whose socio-economic backgrounds frequently correlate with their academic achievement.

“This socio-economic dichotomy is also worryingly reflected in the findings of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which collated these statistics in the US.

“In America, the level of social segregation and the link between home background and success in school is said to be cutting off the supply between secondary school and university.

“Given the challenges and cuts facing our education system at the moment, it is something of which we should take cognisance.

“We have a system of excellence here in Northern Ireland, borne out by the world ranking performance of our children in recent international assessments. We must never allow this to be compromised.

“Communities must not lose the confidence in the idea that effort and investment in education can change life chances.

“The expectation that the next generation will have the chance to be better educated and more prosperous than its predecessor has been a given in the US – as in the UK - now for generations.

“But according to the latest figures from the OECD, this may no longer be the case. It is a worrying trend we cannot ignore as when America sneezes, the UK catches cold, according to the truism.”

The latest annual OECD education statistics show that only about one in five young adults in the US reaches a higher level of education than their parents - among the lowest rates of upward mobility in the developed world.