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Irish language schools protest cuts to ‘nurture unit' scheme

SDLP assembly member Nichola Mallon was among those who joined the protest

PUPILS, parents and classroom staff have taken a protest against cuts to Irish language `nurture units' to the steps of Stormont.

Scoil an Droichid and Bunscoil Bheann Mhadagáin in Belfast were to start operating a pilot scheme from September.

Nurture units aim to address behavioural needs within schools, offering pupils a safe environment to promote learning and positive behaviours.

They are recognised as playing a key role in tackling under-achievement.

Scoil an Droichid principal Fionnguala McCotter said she learned last week that funding was withdrawn.

The Department of Education said "it was made clear that the commencement of the pilot remained contingent upon securing funding".

Pobal, the advocacy organisation for the Irish speaking community, criticised the decision during yesterday's demonstration.

"That politicians should attack children and their education in this manner is utterly unacceptable," said director Janet Muller.

Sinn Féin's Barry McElduff, chairman of the assembly education committee, said schools had been told funding was in place.

"Studies have shown that nurture units make a huge difference to the educational outcomes of children and should be encouraged," he added.

North Belfast SDLP member Nichola Mallon said the decision was "grossly unfair".

"This came at the end of a school week, at the end of a school term and only two months before the units were due to open," she said.

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