Primary school principals have welcomed the Education Minister’s assertions that there should be no classes held in preparation for ‘breakaway’ grammar school transfer tests.
Around 40 primary school heads from the north and west of Northern Ireland gathered in Londonderry yesterday for the final in a series of consultations on the issue of the transfer tests being drawn up by grammar schools in defiance of the Department of Education.
After the private meeting at the Everglades Hotel in the Prehen area of the Waterside, Minister Caitriona Ruane said the consultation in Derry, as in Ballymena, Belfast and Newry, had gone well.
Ms Ruane said the principals in attendance had been furnished with clear information on their statutory duties in relation to the transfer entry tests being drawn up by various individual grammar schools.
She said: “The statutory duties of primary school principals is to teach the revised curriculum under Article 49 of the Education Order.
“I have also written to all the chairs of all the boards of governors and the Catholic Commission has also written to schools to teach the revised curriculum and the controlled sector have been advised of this also. Schools now understand their job is to teach the revised curriculum.”
Ms Ruane called on all primary schools and parents not to ruin the summer for children by forcing them to come back to school early.
“Children have summer holidays for a good reason — we all need our holidays and young children should not be put under pressure and I would advise parents not to put children in for breakaway tests.”
She said the biggest message she would be taking from the principals would be that the revised curriculum is working.
A number of principals at the meeting agreed the new curriculum was having a beneficial effect on children.
Deirdre Gillespie, principal of St Mary’s Primary School in Cloughcor, Co Tyrone, said: “This was a very, very positive meeting, with a lot of support for the department.”
Eamonn Magee, of St Patrick’s and St Brigid’s Primary School in Ballycastle, Co Antrim, agreed: “I think everything Caitriona Ruane says is correct — the children must come first. All the primary principals have stuck together — we are not changing for any unregulated exam.”