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Robinson in call for Executive to find an 11-plus replacement

13-02-2008

13/02/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Belfast Telegraph

The Executive must be involved in finding a replacement for the 11-plus, Finance Minister Peter Robinson has insisted.

Mr Robinson said that while he wanted to avoid the flexing of muscles which had been going on in the Assembly over the future of post-primary education, the issue was going to have to be resolved at cabinet level urgently.

His comments come after the Belfast Telegraph revealed that Education Minister Caitriona Ruane has turned down an offer by the Executive to set up a ministerial sub-group to look at the academic selection debate.

Ministerial working groups have been set up in the past to look at controversial issues - including the review of public administration, water charges and rural planning policy.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education told the Telegraph that the minister was not prepared to discuss confidential Executive business.

"At St Andrews very clear guidelines were laid down on how to deal with such matters," Mr Robinson told MLAs yesterday. The DUP deputy leader said that if matters are cross-cutting, novel or contentious then they must get agreement from Executive colleagues.

"I believe that is the place where we need to work out an agreement and then it becomes the responsibility and under the ownership of the Executive as a whole. The Education Minister would not be standing on her own in arguing this. It would be up to Executive colleagues to stand with her on the basis of an agreed approach as to how we deal with these matters."

Mr Robinson was responding to concerns about the funding of the minister's post primary education plans expressed by the DUP and SDLP.

UUP leader Sir Reg Empey, who is also Employment and Learning Minister, argued that a ministerial sub-group offered the best way of reaching consensus.

"There is a dire and urgent need for clarification of policy when it comes to post-primary education," he said.

Less than two weeks' ago, the Education Minister hit the headlines following a stormy meeting with her committee.

Ms Ruane came under fire from the UUP, DUP and SDLP and was accused of being an 'abysmal and absolute failure' when she attempted to explain her plans to scrap academic selection and introduce a system of school transfer at the age of 14.

 

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