While education is a devolved matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly, every major party is making pledges relating to schools and teaching – some more than others.
Sinn Féin holds the education portfolio at Stormont in the Northern Ireland Assembly. From Westminster, it says it wants improved outcomes for children at primary and secondary level. It also wants to revitalise the Irish language community through investment in Irish-medium education.
“Sinn Féin will continue to oppose austerity and protect core public services such as health, education and welfare,” its manifesto reads.
Education does not feature prominently in the sub-headings of the 11 main sections in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) manifesto, but it receives a few passing mentions.
The party wants from Westminster a budget settlement “which will allow real term increases in education spending over the next five years without decimating other key public services”. It is also seeking capital investment to make schools fit for the 21st century. Locally it says it plans to prioritise spending on education.
“To encourage opportunity for all, in education we have also retained selection based on academic ability and not the ability to pay,” the party adds.
For the SDLP, “education is key to achieving both social justice and long-term prosperity”. It claims, however, that the current system is failing both children and society.
“We must encourage children to take up STEM subjects at all levels of ability in order to provide our children and subsequently, our businesses, with the necessary skills-base to prosper.”
It also wants children in Northern Ireland to have the opportunity to be taught computer programming from the age of eight.
For the Ulster Unionist Party, it believes that now is the time to start commencing the transition to a single education system, where it says “children of all faiths and none” will learn together. It adds: “There would be no more sectors, no more enforced social segregation. If we offer inoculation jabs against MMR, why not give a virtual inoculation against sectarianism?” it asks.
The Alliance Party promises to invest funding in frontline education services “by reinvesting the savings that an integrated education system would provide”.