Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

McCrea: Ruane dictatorship could collapse power-sharing

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane has been accused of running a dictatorship which could bring power-sharing down.

An impassioned Basil McCrea (UUP, Lagan Valley) appealed for her to prevent a plunge into chaos, set her “ideological” principles aside and re-commission a test for post-primary education.

Minister Caitriona Ruane (Sinn Fein, South Down) maintains last year was the final 11-plus, but faces stiff opposition from some schools, parents and unionists.

Mr McCrea said: “This is a dictatorship, it is going nowhere. It is going to bring this place down and she should think about the political consequences of her action.”

Ms Ruane wanted to phase out selection over three years but could not push her proposals through the Executive. She believes the old system branded too many children failures. Church leaders have also called for clarity amid an unregulated system because she can’t pass legislation.

Mr McCrea added: “I have a vision, I see this runaway train driven by the minister for education hurtling towards the... crossing and the education minister has taken away the bridge and said ‘don’t worry, it doesn’t matter, the train will jump the chasm anyway’.”

Dominic Bradley (SDLP, Newry and Armagh) called for a two-year compromise on a schools transfer test to create space for an educator-led initiative to find a long-term, binding consensus.

“The SDLP has campaigned since our inception for the abolition of the 11-plus,” he said. “But we cannot stand by and tolerate a situation that means eight years after the 11-plus was supposedly abolished, we are less than eight months away from chaos and anarchy. “We are no closer to a permanent solution and Minister Caitriona Ruane is offering precisely nothing new.

“We believe it is time for her to return to the interim test she proposed last year and then dropped.”

Ms Ruane said the motion calling for a test to be recommissioned would be rejected.

“The system which this motion wants to keep in place is a failing system and I have already made clear that the status quo isn’t an option.”

She said the transfer test was not fit for the modern world.

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