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'Education cut is a racist insult': Leonard

March 22, 2005 12:00 AM

Alliance Party Spokesperson for Belfast Laganbank, Allan Leonard, has condemned the announcement by the Belfast Education and Library Board that they are to scrap an English Additional Language Support Unit. Mr Leonard will is writing to the Equality Commission, as he believes the cuts may discriminate unnecessarily against children from ethnic minorities.

Mr Leonard pointed out that the English language education cuts contradicted the Government's new 'Shared Future' policy, which is supposed to promote social integration in Northern Ireland.

Mr Leonard said: "I utterly disapprove of BELB's decision to scrap the Additional Language Support Unit in English. These services especially benefit members of ethnic minorities in our society, and this cut will hinder their ability to integrate with their fellow citizens.

"Indeed, the Minister responsible for Education, Barry Gardiner, has acted in a way that contradicts the objectives of Government's policy, A Shared Future, which formally states that the best way forward for Northern Ireland is to provide services that promote integration.

"How timely that 'A Shared Future' was released this week, while Minister Gardiner's cuts to schools services will lead to an action that will seriously curtail people from ethnic minorities integrating into our society.

"I will be writing to the Equality Commission, to ask whether the removal of this service complies with equality legislation, as it appears to discriminate against children from ethnic minorities.

"At a time of increasing immigration into Northern Ireland, it is wrong for BELB to cut this service, which it has been supporting for some 15 years. Recent research by the Chinese Welfare Association has shown that existing provision was already inadequate, and that pupils from ethnic minorities want even more time with teachers."

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