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The clock is ticking as minister hunts for 11-plus replacement


Belfast Telegraph

Less than two months remain for the Education minister to find a replacement for the 11-plus, it has emerged.

The Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), which manages the delivery of the doomed 11-plus, has told the Assembly's Education Committee that work to develop a new transfer test must begin by January next year.

The Education Minister has stated repeatedly that the 11-plus will be axed next year but has so far refused to be pressed on when she will make an announcement about the new post-primary school transfer procedure, appealing to parents and teachers to remain calm.

However, with the January deadline fast approaching, CCEA's recommendation is sure to create additional stress for parents of P5 pupils - the first cohort of pupils that will not sit the 11-plus.

Pupils studying the revised curriculum, which is currently being phased into schools across Northern Ireland, cannot sit the 11-plus under its current format.

Speculation has grown that Caitriona Ruane intends to implement a transfer procedure that would involve pupils making their own subject choices at the age of 14 - without any form of academic selection.

And if Ms Ruane does not announce her decision by January, it will be impossible for CCEA to adapt the transfer test.

In June, the acting chief executive of CCEA, Neil Anderson, said in a letter to the Education Committee: "To manage the development of quality-assured transfer tests properly adapted for use in November and December 2009, CCEA would have to commence the test development cycle six months earlier than has been normal to date and we would therefore require direction to undertake this work no later than January 2008."

Basil McCrea, Education Committee member, said it is time Ms Ruane responded to appeals for information about her plans.

"These are people's lives she is playing with, so it is no trivial matter - but that would appear to be how she is treating it," he said.

"The parents I have spoken to about this have said they just want to know what is happening. They don't really mind what exact plan the minister has in mind if only they had an idea what it is.

"It is high time that the minister gets involved in discussion about her plans. I'm not sure she even knows what she is going to do but if that is the case, the very least she can do is tell us the ideas she has in mind."



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