07 June 2018
DUP Leader Rt Hon Arlene Foster today spoke at the launch of the Research Centre for Educational Underachievement at Stranmillis University College.
DUP representatives have previously focused on the issue with Emma Little Pengelly instituting an All Party Group on the issue whilst a member of the Assembly and North Down Councillor Peter Martin producing a policy document entitled “No Child Left Behind”.
During her remarks at the event she said, “Education should be valued and this includes attendance and punctuality. A rigorous approach to absenteeism should be pursued with accurate tracking, and it is important we have the right threshold for intervention from a welfare officer. A school policy to deal with lateness is important right from the outset for pupils starting school.
Historical changes including the decades of terrorism and a reduction in manufacturing and apprenticeship opportunities over the decades have not helped. The right male role models are very important. There is value in campaigns that promote aspiration.
It is important that learning is valued in the home. Ambition is a good thing. Often parents need to be inspired, in order to be able to inspire their children. Initiatives which can encourage parents back into learning, or learning together with their children are extremely valuable. Huge benefits can be gained from simple things like reading to a child for ten minutes in bed.
Our challenges are not unique to Northern Ireland. In Great Britain there are similar issues with White British Boys, where in a comprehensive system without selective testing White British children eligible for free school meals are consistently the lowest performing ethnic group. Yet there are clearly Northern Ireland specific factors too and this highlights the value of devolution and why it is essential we get effective local decision-making restored as quickly as possible. I will continue to work to achieve this.”