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Minister faces the music on 11-plus

26-09-2007

Members of the pro-grammar school lobby will today issue a face-to-face warning to Education Minister Caitriona Ruane that they will set their own common entry test if she cannot deliver a new system to replace the 11-plus.

The Association for Quality Education (AQE) is to hold discussions with Ms Ruane at Stormont as the future of academic selection remains in limbo.
Earlier this month, the News Letter revealed that the AQE had established a roll-call of some 40 grammar schools that will set their own entry exam, replacing the 11-plus - if the Assembly cannot agree a new transfer system now.
Its spokesman Sir Ken Bloomfield last night said: "What we will be saying to the minister is what the (Assembly's) Education Committee has already stressed: that time is drifting by, the last 11-plus is not that far away and parents with children in school are wondering what will happen when they reach the age for transfer from primary education.
"We need clarification and we need it sooner rather than later."
He also confirmed the AQE would warn that a worst case scenario would involve grammar schools setting their own tests,though he stressed they did not wish to have to do so and also made it clear they were not threatening a breakaway, but an alternative within the education sector.
"There are three alternatives in all," he observed. "The minister may pursue the Sinn Fein line that academic selection is scrapped.
"She could, however, build a new system of selection at primary level. Or, in the last resort, schools come together and provide their own entry tests."
The AQE is currently assessing the legal implications of this final option and has entry tests already prepared.
The association, which includes head teachers, school governors, past pupils and parents, is due to discuss further the alternative plan at a meeting next month.
However, also yesterday, the Association of Head Teachers in Secondary Schools made its view clear that academic selection should go.
Chairman Uel McCrea said: "Pressure groups who appear to be interested only in the preservation of a type of secondary school need to be challenged about the need for yet another batch of tests for eight, nine and 10-year-old children.
"The purpose of this educational diet is only to produce a 'pecking order' for entrance into a type of school. Our children should have the best educational opportunity possible, regardless of their academic ability or social background."

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