UNISON cautiously optimistic following announcement by minister

UNISON’s head of bargaining and representation Anne Speed has welcomed John O’Dowd’s announcement that changes will be introduced in terms of school funding related to directly targeting educational disadvantages.

Minister O’Dowd announced £30m will be targeted directly at schools teaching children from disadvantaged backgrounds over the course of the next two years.

As well as this, it was declared that by September 2014 an additional 15,000 children will be entitled to free school meals and support with uniform costs.

“This is definitely a step in the right direction,” said UNISON’s Anne Speed. “For too long children from disadvantaged backgrounds have suffered educationally. As a result, their futures have been put at serious risk.

“An injection of resources into these areas will begin to help those children who are most disadvantaged achieve the qualifications they are capable of and improve their lives.

“As a union, we no longer want to see a child’s ability hampered and future prematurely decided based purely on wealth.”

Anne Speed also acknowledged the declaration of extra school meals and uniform cost support. “For years,” said Anne, “UNISON have offered help to parents who have struggled to cope with the costs of school meals and uniforms with our grant schemes.

“In these times of austerity, parents are suffering from stress as they worry where they are going to get the money to support their children. Government cuts have created a social stigma.

“But,” Anne continued, “we hope the extra support announced by the Minister will ease the burden on many parents and consequently their children”.

Minister O’Dowd said in a statement that in the coming weeks details of the proposals will be published for consultation. “UNISON wants to see this consultation in order to ensure the voices of children and parents are heard.

“The Minister’s announcement has left us cautiously optimistic and we encourage him to continue this with the consultation,” said Anne.