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Robinson in 11-plus row with Ruane


31/12/2007 :: Northern Ireland :: Belfast Telegraph

Peter Robinson has cast doubt on the status of Education Minister Caitriona Ruane's statement on the future of academic selection.

In an official Assembly written answer, the Finance Minister indicated that " decisions remain to be taken" on the way pupils transfer from primary to secondary schools.

He said Ms Ruane's statement to the Assembly earlier this month - which repeated that the 11-plus will end next year and said that pupils will transfer at age 14 in the future - was simply her " vision on the way forward".

In her December 4 statement, Ms Ruane characterised the transfer procedures she outlined as a definite outcome - calling them "my new arrangement".

But Mr Robinson claimed she is aware that the Executive must approve any final decision.

"The new Statutory Ministerial Code as approved by the Northern Ireland Assembly on 20th March requires the Executive to agree a way forward on such matters in order for decisions to be taken," he said.

"The Minister for Education is aware of this position and has indicated the need for Executive decisions on this matter.

" In particular in this case the Ministerial Code is relevant to decisions that remain to be taken rather than a statement of the Education Minister's vision on the way forward."

Mr Robinson was responding to a question from UUP MLA Basil McCrea, who criticised the Finance Minister and Education Committee chairman Sammy Wilson over a meeting with Ms Ruane before her statement.

Mr McCrea had said that meeting was "a case of the dog that didn't bark".

"Peter Robinson, who has been most vociferous with Margaret Ritchie, has not said boo yet to the Minister for Education on the very issue that they went to St Andrews on. It is incredible."

In his reply, Mr Robinson said that " contrary to misleading, mischievous and distorted Press comment from irresponsible individuals which were clearly motivated by narrow party political considerations the detail of the statement was not provided" at the December 3 meeting.

"The chair of the Committee for Education and I made clear our position that any future arrangements would require to leave open the option of academic selection to obtain the support of our party."



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