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Pounds 3m to boost Belfast exam performance

The Government has expanded plans to tackle the high number of youngsters leaving Belfast schools with few or no qualifications, writes Noel McAdam.

The project, Making Belfast Work, intends to build on the eight-month paramilitary ceasefire, with a quarter of the Pounds 12 million budget targeted for educational projects.

A central plank of the strategy is the establishment of an Institute for Urban Affairs, believed to be unique in the UK, which will be linked to the University of Ulster.

Academics there will be able to move into community work via the institute and people involved in community groups will be able to take time off to help the prospects for urban regeneration.

Day-to-day management of the institute will be the task of a partnership made up from the university, statutory and community agencies and the private sector, and the institute will provide multi-disciplinary support for training and research in urban regeneration.

Two new nursery schools will be announced soon, bringing to 10 the number funded by Making Belfast Work since it was first formed in 1988.

The pre-school age group will be a major target because of evidence that increased support in the early years provides long-term educational benefits. The cash will also be directed at literacy problems and boosting further education.

Some inner-city areas, including West Belfast, show acute problems among school-leavers. Almost 15 per cent of pupils there leave with no GCSEs, compared to an average for the province as a whole of 11.4 per cent.

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