General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

 
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Northern Ireland schools open to 'legal challenge'

24-03-2010

BBC News

The Department of Education has been criticised for advising schools to follow guidance on selection which may leave them open to legal challenge.

The Governing Bodies Association (GBA) has received legal advice on the Transfer 2010 policy.

The association represents 52 voluntary grammar schools across NI.

It is understood school authorities across the sectors are angry they were not warned of the possible legal pitfalls of ending academic selection.

That is what the education minister, Caitriona Ruane, strongly advised them to do.

Any significant change to a school's policy requires a formal development proposal and it has now emerged that dropping academic selection requires such a proposal.

However the GBA says schools were not warned about this during all the discussions on ending academic selection.

'Vindicated'

The association said the discovery of a legal problem vindicated its members' decision to use unregulated entrance tests.

It is understood some schools, which previously admitted a proportion of pupils using academic selection, changed their policy without getting formal approval.

The Department of Education said it would help any school which wanted to drop academic selection.

Ms Ruane said it would be be up to her department to determine whether or not a change could be called "significant" .

In the meantime, Ms Ruane said any school's application for a development proposal would be speeded through.

She said the GBA should adapt to change rather than search for obstacles.

Meanwhile, Catholic grammar and secondary schools in Londonderry are expected to be linked together in a new Derry City Foundation with one overall director.

It is likely that at least one secondary school will close but it is not clear which one.

All the schools in the foundation will have to drop academic selection.

In north Derry three secondary schools are likely to be reduced to two.

One in Limavady will stay while the other two, in Dungiven or Claudy, are likely to merge.

 

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