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Minister outlines transfer proposals

01-07-2009

Irish News

Caitriona Ruane yesterday told assembly members exactly how she plans for children to transfer to post-primary schools from next year.

There is no longer a state-sponsored 11-plus and the education minister had asked that all schools operate non-academic admissions criteria only.

Grammar schools, however, are to defy the minister by continuing with their own new 11-plus style entrance tests.

Ms Ruane yesterday made a statement to the assembly in which she detailed her proposals.

There was some criticism from teaching unions about the timing of the announcement – schools are about to break up for the summer.

She recommended all schools use as their first criterion a measure that will ensure children

entitled to free meals gain admissions at the same rate as all other applicants.

Other non-academic criteria, such as applicants who have a sibling attending a school or applicants from a feeder/named pri- mary school, should also be used.

The minister started and finished her statement by bashing the now defunct 11-plus system.

Testing children at 10 or 11 was “totally wrong”. Putting young children under intense pressure was “indefensible”. Branding 11-year old children as failures was “immoral” and “unjust”.

“The guidance states that it is not the policy of the Department of Education to include academic admissions criteria in its recom- mended admissions criteria,” Ms Ruane said.

“The department does not consider academic selection to be consistent with the objective of treating children fairly and letting them access the education to which they are entitled.

“Equality will be the cornerstone of our new education system.

“There is a widespread view across the education sector that academic selection is not in the best interests of all children.

“If schools follow the Transfer 2010 guidance there is no need whatsoever to subject children to traumatic tests.”

The DUP’s Mervyn Storey, chairman of the assembly education committee, claimed the minister had admitted defeat over academic selection.

The Department of Education has acknowledged it can do little to stop grammars holding their own tests – the guidance said the use of academic tests would “not be explicitly prohibited”.

“She will not be able to do anything to prevent schools from using selection based on academic ability to place pupils in a school which best serves their needs. Ruane has run up the white flag over the issue,” Mr Storey said.

Alliance education spokesman Trevor Lunn said the guidance paper provided “welcome clarity of what the minister wants to achieve, if not how she intends to get there”.

“There is a total lack of sanctions available to use against those who ignore the guidelines,” he said.

“Even though the minister cited widespread support for the changes, she has not been able to convince the executive to allow discussion of them and the unregulated chaos this year will have to run its course.

“There is a statutory requirement on primary schools to teach the new curriculum but no sanctions against the grammar schools that are pressurising them to divert their efforts to coach pupils for a variety of tests.”
 

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