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Punishment for coaching unexplained


08/10/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

The Department of Education has so far been unable to explain exactly how minister Caitriona Ruane will punish schools who coach pupils for new grammar entrance exams.

The department has said the last 11-plus will take place this autumn and the curriculum in the run-up to Primary 7 will "no longer be skewed by preparations for this test".

The new curriculum, which is being phased in, places a greater emphasis on skills.

Since September, P6 teachers have been delivering six new subject areas including language and literacy, the arts, the 'world around us' and mathematics and numeracy.

Some primary schools, however, have indicated that they will continue coaching pupils wanting to take tests being set by these grammars.

Ms Ruane last month told the assembly she would "take action" against schools who skewed their teaching away from the curriculum.

Asked what this action would entail, it was said the department had powers "to direct a board of governors in order to prevent the unreasonable exercise of its functions".

Further asked exactly what this meant - whether the minister could impose financial sanctions or suspend governors - a department spokeswoman repeated the earlier statement.

"The department has a power under Article 101 of the 1986 Education Order to direct a school's board of governors in order to prevent the unreasonable exercise of its functions," she said.

When asked again yesterday to clarify, a spokesman said that schools were required by law to deliver the statutory curriculum for pupils of school age.

"The revised curriculum was not designed with testing for the purposes of selection in mind.

"Our professional teachers should not be diverted from teaching the revised curriculum," he said.

"We are not prepared to speculate on any action that may be taken."



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