General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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Mixed reaction from school principals and politicians


15/05/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

The minister's plans for bilateral schools and a temporary reprieve for academic selection received a mixed reaction last night from school principals and politicians.

Caitriona Ruane will today inform the executive that some form of academic selection can remain in the short-term.

Under the plan, grammar schools would be able to admit half of first-year pupils in 2010 using a new test which will be drawn up by the north's exams board, the CCEA.

Adeline Dinsmore, principal of Ashfield Girls' High School in Belfast, who will head up a new central area-based planning group to decide on future school structures, gave a cautious welcome.

"I thought the 11-plus was a very bad exam," she said.

"When parents see... how children are coping with the new curriculum, this test will not be something that is attractive to them."

Richard Finlay, head of Glenlola Collegiate, which is part of a breakaway group planning to use new entrance exams after the 11-plus is scrapped, said the minister's proposals were a "fudge".

"I think it is a question of us being asked to perhaps vote as a turkey for Christmas in three years' time," he said.

Sinn Fein education spokesman John O'Dowd said the minister had set out a "clear way forward" and the temporary test would help ensure smooth transition.

"Academic selection has no place in a modern education system," he said.

"From 2013 all academic selection will end.

"There is no point ignoring the reality of falling student numbers, that too many young people are leaving schools with the basic numeric and literacy skills and the need to expand access to academic and vocational excellence.

"These proposals are an essential part of the strategy to address these issues."

The DUP's Sammy Wilson said, however, that under no circumstances would his party agree to anything that would see academic selection banned.

"It remains our position that schools should have the right to select pupils on the basis of their academic ability," he said.

"The minister's proposals fall far short of that position.

"Indeed, they simply amount to a three-year delay in the introduction of all ability comprehensive school system in Northern Ireland.

"If academic selection is acceptable for a further three years, it undermines the minister's argument that it should be removed at all."



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