Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

No compromise from Education Minister on transfer campaign

Alan Lewis - Photopress Belfast 14/5/2008..Picture by Justin Kernoghan..Northern Ireland's education minister, Caitr ona Ruane, speaking at the DE Spring Conference for Post Primary and Special Schools Principals 2008 at the Hilton Hotel in Templepatrick today. Caitr ona Ruane said she still had a "vision that there will be no academic selection" and that she was prepared to take the steps needed to achieve that. In a speech to grammar and secondary school principals, the minister referred to personal criticism of her. But she also thanked everyone for adding to the debate...She said there cannot be a "Transfer Test Mark II" and that she hoped academic selection will soon be seen as an "historical anomaly".

The Belfast Telegraph’s school transfer campaign has been raised on the floor of the Assembly ... but the minister stood firm.

During question time Education Minister Caitriona Ruane was asked by UUP education spokesman Basil McCrea why she refuses to sit down and sort the matter out.

Ms Ruane said that her Transfer 2010 policy is in place and that the Executive had refused to discuss her proposals.

Our petition is calling for focused Executive talks to find an agreed solution to the current school transfer crisis.

A Sinn Fein spokesman has also indicated that the party has no intention of bowing to public pressure to take part in all-party talks.

When asked by the Telegraph to say whether or not the party would agree to political talks, a spokesman said a decision on school transfer has been made and it is now up to the schools continuing with academic testing to explain their actions.

The four other main political parties — the UUP, DUP, SDLP and Alliance Party — all gave strong support to our campaign when we took it straight to the 108 MLAs at Stormont earlier this week.

They invited us into their party meetings, queued to sign the petition and also posed for group photographs to show the strength of their support for the Telegraphcampaign.

Ms Ruane issued guidance to schools urging them not to use academic admissions criteria — but did not achieve the political support she needed to outlaw academic selection.

As a result 68 schools have decided to ignore her plea and instead introduce their own entrance tests for this year.

Some P7 pupils face sitting up to five exams on Saturdays this autumn.

We are calling on the Executive ministers to show leadership and sit down together to sort out the long-running school transfer debacle. The Sinn Fein spokesman said: “Sinn Fein will continue to make decisions at the Executive and Assembly under legislative rules as set out under the Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement.

“As part of that legislative process the minister brought proposals to the Executive which many of the parties now signing this petition refused to even discuss.

“Parties who now present themselves as reasonable and as seeking accommodation are actually seeking the return of the 11-plus, as can be witnessed in their Assembly motions on the issue.

“They need to understand there will be no 11th-hour reprieve for the 11-plus.

“A decision has been made, Transfer 2010 has been introduced, it is now up to those small minority of schools who plan to continue to select or reject children at age of 10 to explain their actions.”

Meanwhile, Professor Tony Gallagher, head of the School of Education at Queen’s University, has also given his support to our campaign.

He was the co-author of a 1998 report commissioned by the Department of Education which found that there were serious weaknesses within our selective system.

He said: “I strongly welcome the Belfast Telegraph initiative.

“This is an opportunity for people across the community to give a loud and clear message to our politicians: you signed up for consensus government and you now have a responsibility to make it work.

“On this issue, at this time, our politicians face a test of their commitment to shared government — let us all hope they do not fail.”

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