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Unregulated transfer system will cause school closures say CCMS

05-12-2008

05/12/2008  ::  Northern Ireland  ::  The Irish News

An ad-hoc system of transfer from primary to post-primary will lead to unwanted and unplanned school closures, it has been warned.

A meeting of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) yesterday heard that allowing an unregulated system to develop would constitute a “collective dereliction of political responsibility”.

The council echoed a call from the north’s main churches urging politicians to stand back from established positions to end uncertainty around the transfer issue.

Education minister Caitriona Ruane, pictured, has proposed phasing out academic selection using a temporary new transfer test over the next three years. If the executive and assembly cannot agree on the reforms, however, it is feared transfer to post-primary schools could be left unregulated.

Many grammars are already drawing up plans for their own entrance tests.

In a paper tabled yesterday, the CCMS said the academic selection debate had become politicised, resulting in stalemate.

The stance taken by the DUP in supporting the retention of grammar schools, the council said, appeared “more related to an election strategy rather than an educational philosophy or political ideology”.

The position of Sinn Fein, meanwhile, was driven by its political ideology of equality for all, “leaving this party with little scope to consider compromise solutions”.

This impasse, the CCMS said, had created “widespread frustration leading to anger and anxiety” among parents and children.

Unless the stalemate was resolved, the education system would enter into a period of unregulation which would effectively create “a winner and loser market forces scenario”.

“Such a scenario, coming at a time of a significant decline in the student numbers and during a period when the school estate requires renewal, will render the education planners powerless to proactively plan for the future,” the CCMS said.

The council recommended the creation of a cross-party group which would identify areas of common ground, which could include agreeing that high stakes testing at age 11 should be ended.

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