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Politicians forced to postpone talks on ending school transfer logjam

07-10-2009

Belfast Telegraph

Despite agreeing last week to take part in joint talks on school transfer, politicians have been forced to postpone a meeting because they can’t find the time.

 

The DUP, Alliance, Ulster Unionists and the DUP agreed to open preparatory talks on the transfer chaos in response to the Telegraph’s Sit Down, Sort It Out campaign.

Alliance Party education spokesman Trevor Lunn said he tried to organise all-party preparatory discussions for this week but that other parties were having trouble committing to a time.

Arrangements are instead being made for a meeting next Wednesday. It is unlikely that Sinn Fein will attend.

“I want the talks to take place as quickly as possible and said I could make time to meet today, tomorrow or Friday,” Mr Lunn said. “The other parties, bar Sinn Fein, have signed up to the Telegraph’s campaign and they do have busy diaries. But they need to decide whether or not this is a priority.

“However, I hope that we can still make progress this week with one-to-one talks and I also plan to talk to John O’Dowd (Sinn Fein).”

DUP education spokesman Mervyn Storey said he was unable to commit to talks this week due to meetings on the Education and Skills Authority Bill which is due to come before the Assembly next week.

However, he has agreed to next week’s joint meeting.

“If as much interest was being paid to the issue of education as there was on policing and justice, then we might get progress.,” he said.

UUP education spokesman Basil McCrea has also signed up for next week’s talks.

He said: “We have always been prepared to engage constructively. There needs to be a willingness to compromise all round.”

The SDLP’s Dominic Bradley has also confirmed that he will |attend the discussions.

In the Assembly earlier this week, Education Minister Caitriona Ruane reiterated her intention to move ahead with her plans.

She said: “Let me be absolutely clear and unambiguous: the 11-plus is gone, the 11-plus is not coming back in any shape or form. The new arrangements are now in place, they will not be reversed.”

Alison Loughlin, regional manager of Parenting Forum NI, urged the parties to start talks as soon as possible.

She said: “We really hope that the meeting takes place next week and that it is the beginning of a process which will have a good outcome for young people.”



 

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