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Catholic schools council casts doubt on interim selection plan


13/06/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

Allowing academic selection to remain for three more years could cause more harm than good in the long term, Catholic educationalists have warned.

A meeting of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) yesterday heard that retaining selection by ability was "educationally unnecessary".

Members were told that schools did not need time to adapt to education minister Caitriona Ruane's plans to allow parents to choose the post-primary school for their child since many grammar schools already had all-ability intakes.

Under the minister's proposals, schools will be permitted to admit only half of first-year pupils in 2010 using a new test that will replace the 11-plus.

However, in the following two years this quota would be reduced to 30 per cent and then 20 per cent.

All other pupils at oversubscribed schools would be selected using non-academic criteria.

Today the assembly's education committee will meet in closed session to discuss responses to the minister's plans.

The CCMS response was tabled yesterday before council members.

Deputy chief executive Jim Clarke said it accepted the diminishing proportions of 50, 30 and 20 per cent "but only on the basis that by 2013 all forms of a selective test will be ended".

He said CCMS believed that any system of transfer at age 11 should offer each child access to a good school in the sector of their choice and this could be assured only on completion of 'area-based planning' reforms.

"Since this process is unlikely to have been completed and its recommendations fully actioned before September 2010 the council has reluctantly accepted that some form of interim arrangement is necessary," Mr Clarke said.

Members also heard concerns about some of Ms Ruane's proposed non-academic admissions criteria.

These include catchment areas, nearest suitable schools, feeder primaries and new "socially disadvantaged criteria", whereby schools could admit a particular number of children entitled to free school meals.

Mr Clarke said he was concerned that such "artificial quotas" could lead to the displacement of children from their natural areas.

A general guideline on a social mix reflective of the area served by a school would be preferable to a fixed quota, he said.

"While we support the notion of social justice, we do not think this is a workable solution," he said.

"A school should reflect the make-up of the area that it serves."



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