General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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Teaching unions get ministerial briefing


20/05/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

The new test being lined up to replace the 11-plus will "under no circumstances" distort primary school teaching, unions have been told.

Representatives of five teachers' unions yesterday met education minister Caitriona Ruane to discuss her reform plans yesterday.

Teachers had earlier given a guarded welcome to the proposals to phase out academic selection over three years, saying they favoured incremental change.

Under the minister's plan, grammar schools would be able to admit only half of their pupils in 2010 using a new test to be drawn up by the north's exams board, the CCEA.

However, in the following two years this quota would be re-duced to 30 per cent and then 20 per cent, before selection by ability would be outlawed the following year.

Ms Ruane had said she planned to tell unions that the new temporary test would not distort a new curriculum being introduced in primary schools.

Irish National Teachers Organisation northern secretary Frank Bunting said the unions had been reassured by the minister.

"The initial discussion about the continuation about a form of academic selection was recognised as providing a platform for a smooth transitional phase to post-primary," he said.

"We welcome her acceptance of the need to incentivise collaboration between schools."

Meanwhile, Ms Ruane told the assembly yesterday that a new school transfer system "cannot be selection by stealth''.

The minister was asked by the SDLP's Dominic Bradley to clarify previous statements about delaying decision-making until 14, including how receiving schools would be able to consider previous educational experience and performance of applicants.

The minister replied that she had referred to a process of "informed election" at 14 and not "selection".

"It is a process which builds upon existing practice in schools where a 14-year-old and his or her parents determine the post-14 pathway to be taken by the young person,'' she said.

"This election informs the extent it draws upon advice from educational professionals concerned including careers advice, the guidance of teachers at an applicant's current school and the advice of professionals at the school that an applicant may attend in the future.

"This process cannot be selection by stealth.

"Children at 14 or young people know what they like and know where their interest lies, and working with their parents, their teachers and careers guidance, are well fit and capable of making choices."

Mr Bradley questioned whether there would be academic selection by the back door.

Ms Ruane replied: "I have not sat on the fence in relation to this issue. I am very clear. I do not think we need to select children by so-called ability at 11 or 14."



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