General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

Sign-up to E-News

Union-organised petition calls for end to academic selection


Parents, principals, teachers, classroom assistants and university academics have come together to call for an end to academic selection.

Hundreds have signed a trade union-organised petition - which appears in The Irish News as an advertisement today - as primary seven pupils sit the first of this year's 11-plus papers.

Entitled Change for Children, it expresses hope that this is the last year children, their families and teachers undergo such a "stressful, divisive and increasingly pointless test".

While education minister Caitriona Ruane has said that the 11-plus will not be offered after this year, many schools are already drawing up plans for new academic entrance tests.

This means that some primary school pupils who apply to more than one school could face the prospect of sitting different tests for different grammars on different days.

The signatories say selection at the age of 11 is unfair to children, breeds social inequality and is inefficient for the future needs of young people, the economy and society.

There is a compelling case, the group adds, for better alternatives offering meaningful choice for all second-level students and schools.

"The time has come for a decision to be made, one based on the common good and not the preservation of ideals which are cherished by some and yet leave too many children behind," the petition says.

"The people of Northern Ireland deserve a greater legacy from our schools.

"That legacy must be an education system which can recognise and nurture the talent of all of our children."

Among the signatories to the petition, which was organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), are the unions that represent both teaching and non-teaching staff in schools.

Some primary and secondary principals have also backed the call to end selection, although there is no support from grammar schools.

Representatives of both Comhairle na Gaelscolaiochta - the council for Irish-medium education - and the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education have also added their names.

ICTU assistant general secretary Peter Bunting said it was taking the initiative because it was "the right thing to do".

"We have been inundated with support from across society," he said.

"The variety of people who have signed their support for the principles in the statement show that there is a real and meaningful coalition of good people who are firmly opposed to selection, especially at such a young age.

"In contrast those who shout loudly for the preservation of this unfair test can be exposed as noisy elitists who confuse earned excellence with bought privilege."

07/11/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News


© Copyright 2006 i3 Digital