General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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11-plus debate resolution proposal


Irish News

Politicians should step back and allow educators to find a solution to the 11-plus crisis, the SDLP has urged, writes Simon Doyle.

The party said Churches, unions and schools should be among those trying to develop a compromise on the issue.

Thousands of Primary Seven pupils will sit new entrance exams set by grammar schools next month in defiance of a call by the education minister Caitriona Ruane for testing to end.

In a paper prepared ahead of cross-party talks the SDLP said there was a need for a long-term agreement.

‘Putting Children First – a vision for excellence and equity in education’ recommends a temporary transfer test as a one-year interim measure.

However, the SDLP said selection at 11 was educationally unsound and socially unjust and 14 was a better age to exercise pupil and parental choice.

The party also said unregulated tests were creating chaos and had a profound impact on primary schools who were under pressure to coach children.

This, it claimed, was largely down to the failure of Sinn Fein and the DUP to agree a way forward.

“It is now well beyond the time for all parties to admit we are in a crisis situation and that the debate surrounding the future of education must be moved beyond the narrow issue of selection,” the SDLP paper states.

“In order to ensure an agreed solution can be legislated for and implemented in time to protect children transferring in 2011 work must begin immediately.”

The party proposed that “educators be enabled to lead the way in producing a solution to put in place in a year’s time”.

“To do this we recommend the establishment of an educator-led expert panel tasked with building a sustainable consensus on non-selective transfer whose recommendations the executive and the assembly would use as the basis for legally binding regulations from 2011 at the latest.”

The SDLP said such a panel would allow politicians to step back and help create breathing space for compromise to be developed, and would include teaching unions, the four main Churches, grammar and secondary school representatives.

“This expert panel must begin with a vision of how we want our future education system to look and then develop the roadmap to get there,” the SDLP paper said.

“It is within this context that a short-term interim measure for post-primary transfer must be assessed.”


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