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Primary Schools' fury over planned changes

04-06-2007

Primary schools' fury over planned changes

04/06/2007 The Belfast Telegraph


The Education Minister was today on a collision course with almost half of Northern Ireland's primary schools in an ongoing row over major changes planned for the education system.

Caitriona Ruane has failed to distract principals away from serious concerns they have raised in relation to funding and adapting to a more flexible curriculum - despite her recent announcement at a teachers' conference in Armagh of an additional £3m to enhance classroom resources in the early years and for thousands of new laptops for pupils.

Over 360 primary head teachers held a crunch meeting in Cookstown on Thursday and have agreed a list of demands to be put to the Department of Education. They are also seeking advice from teacher unions on any further action they can take.

The assurances they are seeking include a moratorium on any further new initiatives for the next three years, parity of funding between the primary and secondary sectors, "vastly increased funding" for the revised curriculum, and that computerised testing of pupils in P5 will not proceed until appropriate funding and training is in place.

They have also called for clarity in relation to finding a replacement for the 11-plus transfer system claiming "academic selection is entirely incompatible with the revised curriculum".

A statement agreed by the Northern Ireland Primary Principals Action Group said: "The department needs to work quickly to rebuild the trust of primary principals who, for too long, have been working with grossly inadequate resources and trying to manage an ever increasing workload."

Ronnie Milligan, principal of Cregagh Primary in east Belfast, today said: " The unanimous feeling of over 360 principals is that the outcomes of the Department of Education's conference in Armagh were disappointing, superficial and inadequate."

Edwin Barr, principal of Donaghadee Primary, said: "We have reached a crunch point and really need to get more money into the primary sector for the revised curriculum to work. We are seeking another meeting with Will Haire (Permanent Secretary) to see if there is any prospect of its implementation being delayed by the year we have asked for."

A spokesman for exams body CCEA said teachers are receiving Pupil Profile training, including computerised (INCAS) testing, but added common concerns expressed include timescales for introduction of assessments and the availability of hardware.

A spokesman for the Department of Education said: "The Minister dealt with most of these issues in her speech (at Armagh) including acknowledging the concerns principals have about resources and explained that this can only be dealt with in the context of the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review."

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