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Ruane: My way or free-for-all


15/10/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

Education minister Caitriona Ruane has said there are only two options for replacing the 11-plus - her way or a free-for-all.

In a letter, the minister said if legislation for her plans could not be achieved then transfer to post-primary schools in 2010 would be unregulated.

Given unionist opposition to her proposals, an ad hoc system with all popular schools introducing their own entrance tests seems almost inevitable.

Already 33 grammar schools have said they will defy Ms Ruane and retain selection from next year.

Failure to secure new legislation will also mean that non-grammar schools can set entrance tests.

Some schools have said the absence of agreed plans is causing them to continue with some form of transfer test.

Despite opposition, Ms Ruane is pressing ahead with her proposals and has made a bid for a slot in the assembly's legislative programme.

She has proposed a new transfer test to replace the 11-plus after this autumn but for three years only.

After that she plans that selection by ability will be forbidden but the unionist parties have pledged to block the move.

Writing to primary school principals, Ms Ruane conceded there were now only two options.

She said she wanted a sound legislative basis for her proposals but if she did not receive support for that approach "then transfer in 2010 will be unregulated".

Previously the minister had said she hoped to achieve "consensus".

The letter in which Ms Ruane outlined the alternatives also criticised principals for voicing concerns about her plans.

Head teachers said there was mounting frustration at the lack of information.

The minister wrote that she was surprised and disappointed by the primary principals' comments.

She said she had been "very clear" that she did not believe young children should be subjected to testing.

The letter also said that every primary school principal and teacher was expected to deliver the statutory curriculum and not be diverted by any post-primary school's particular admissions requirements.

She said the revised curriculum was all that primary 6 children needed to prepare them for transfer in 2010.

However, the principals said they were furious at being singled out and said they still did not know what was going to happen next year.

Ms Ruane, meanwhile, has yet to send a separate letter she promised parents and schools to help provide information about her vision for a system without the 11-plus.

That communication was promised in February.

The Department of Education said Ms Ruane had given a commitment to provide information to parents and would do so "at an appropriate time".



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