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Primary schools used as 'cannon fodder' according to SDLP MLA

25-01-2011

BBC

Primary schools are being used as cannon fodder in the war between the minister of education and the grammar schools according to one SDLP MLA, on 24 January 2011.

Dominic Bradley was speaking in support of a DUP-sponsored debate on post-primary transfer.

In November, education minister Caitriona Ruane ordered the removal of payments to primary schools for interviews in which teachers can give advice to parents in the light of their child's results in the unregulated transfer test.

The minister's decision allows for the funding of advice meetings held up to the day before the issue of the test results

The DUP's Jonathan Craig proposed the motion, saying that the decision amounted to the bullying of parents.

Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd defended the minister's move.

He questioned whether the motion was about education or elitism, and said that in the past the primary schools had been used as a corralling system for the grammar schools.

Trevor Lunn of the Alliance party said he would prefer to see the end of academic selection but that parents needed advice from their child's principal and the P7 teacher.

The education minister replied to the debate by defending Sinn Féin's policy of ending academic selection.

Caitríona Ruane said "state-sponsored academic selection was, in fact, state-sponsored rejection for the vast majority of children."

The minister criticised the grammar schools, accusing them of pressurising primary school principals. She said it was necessary to take steps to prevent this pressure.

The DUP motion was passed on an oral vote.

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