Lochside Garage

‘A’ level choices face the chop due to school cuts


School students studying A level courses at South West College could lose out

AS post-primary pupils prepare to return to the classroom next month, school principals have learned that money from the Department of Education (DE) which enabled them to offer more subjects is to be almost halved.
A letter from the DE to local principals said the cut, a cash reduction of £2m from the 2016/17 budget of £4.9m, is “due to pressures on the education budget”.
Until now post-primary schools have had to offer pupils at least 21 subjects at GCSE and A-Level. Since a limited number of individual schools are able to offer all the different subjects, many have worked together to share teachers and classes to cover additional teaching and travel costs.
Ulster Unionist MLA Rosemary Barton says the decision to slash the funding available to ensure all pupils have access to a sufficient number of subjects will have a detrimental impact on young people. Mrs Barton believes it’s essential that pupils can access an appropriate range of relevant subjects and are not limited in their career paths.
“The reality in Northern Ireland is that not all schools have big enough enrolments to be able to offer every subject on the curriculum. By coming together with other nearby schools most pupils have been able to access all the academic and vocational subjects needed to obtain the skills required in a modern economy.”
The former secondary schoolteacher says slashing the funding to facilitate this collaborative approach will be a hammer blow to those pupils.
“It is simply outrageous that in the 21st century, when university degrees and educational expectations are constantly shifting and becoming more demanding, many pupils in Northern Ireland are having their choice of subjects substantially reduced.”
Mrs Barton says that the revised funding arrangements will have major consequences for Post 16 students in Fermanagh who avail of courses in the South West College that are not offered in schools.
“The majority of schools in our Area Learning Community participated very successfully in collaborative based courses with the South West College. Now future students may not have the option of studying particular subjects which is a retrograde step both for our young people and our economy,” she added.

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