The Integrated Education Bill recently passed its final stage at Stormont despite opposition from Unionist parties.
However, despite voting against the bill, UUP leader Doug Beattie refused to pact with the DUP in backing a ‘petition of concern’—a veto mechanism that would have blocked the bill.
Now North Antrim DUP MLA and former Chair of the Assembly Education Committee Mervyn Storey has challenged the Ulster Unionist Party’s candidates in May’s Assembly Election to explain why they chose not to use every means available to block proposals that would elevate one sector of our education system to the detriment of the majority of children in North Antrim.
Commenting after the Final stage of the Integrated Education Bill sponsored by the Alliance Party, Mr Storey said: ‘‘The DUP wants to see children from all walks of life educated together but this is reckless and divisive peice of legislation. Many controlled, maintained and voluntary Grammar schools, locally already accommodate children of all faiths and none.
“Under this Bill they will now be consigned to old and dilapidated classrooms simply because they have the wrong sign above the door. This is unacceptable.
“As someone who has been consistently pressing for additional capital investment in schools across our constituency, it is deeply frustrating that we are now likely to see the diversion of funding toward the integrated sector.
“This will directly penalise controlled, maintained and voluntary schools that teach over 90% of pupils in Northern Ireland.
“It is ironic that the Alliance Party has become the standard-bearer of inequality and division.
“Those Unionist leaders and MLAs who gave them cover by failing to sign a petition of concern to proactively protect the interests of local pupils, teachers and parents should hang their heads in shame.
“Their actions will live long in the memory of voters.’’