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11/08/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News
All ability schools do not need to sacrifice their all ability teaching to achieve academic excellence, it has been said.
Michael Wardlow, head of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, said he noted with great interest the publication by The Irish News of performance lists for non-grammar schools.
Most of the non-grammar schools with the best GCSE results in Northern Ireland last year were Catholic managed.
It was a similar picture when The Irish News published a list of top-performing grammars, using data published by the government.
While A-level results were used to compare grammar schools, GCSEs were used for a list of non-grammars.
They featured the most up-to-date Department of Education figures, from the 2006/07 school year.
Of the non-grammar schools listed, nine were integrated.
Only two - Slemish College in Ballymena and Lagan College in south Belfast - have grammar as well as non-grammar streams.
Sperrin Integrated College in Magherafelt, which opened in 2002, appeared on the list for the first time - last year was the first time the school entered pupils for GCSEs.
Mr Wardlow said the integrated schools' results vindicated the claim that all-ability schools do not have to sacrifice their all-ability teaching to achieve academic excellence.
Half the integrated colleges which offer GSCEs, he said, had more than 50 per cent of their students achieving five or more GSCEs at grades A* to C.
"This is a tremendous testimony to the staff and pupils of these nine colleges, which despite being all ability and having a high proportion of children with special educational needs, are able to out perform other non-grammar schools in their GCSE results," Mr Wardlow said.
"These survey results dismiss any argument that academic excellence is incompatible with an all-ability integrated choice."
He added that league tables were only a small part of the picture, and that their publication could give undue emphasis to only one part of school life.
"The whole integrated community is nevertheless proud of this testament to the talent, commitment and hard work of students and staff, supported by their boards of governors," he said.
"Our results are a vindication of the all-ability education and include achievement across the range from straight As onward.
"We are equally aware however, that every school mentioned in the list has students showing talent, commitment and hard work and also deserve congratulations."