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UUP putting education at the top of its agenda

By Lindsay Fergus

Education dominates the UUP manifesto with a particular focus on pre-school provision, post-primary transfer, reforming education administration and job provision for university and higher education graduates.

The party outlines its commitment to universal pre-school education, devolving more power to headteachers, finding agreement on a final replacement for the 11-plus and promoting shared education.

Basil McCrea, UUP education spokesman, said: “Education is a big issue.

“On the doorstep people are particularly concerned about nursery provision and the discrimination against working mums.

“University fees is another issue.

“People understand there’s some requirement to pay fees but they want to be sure there will be jobs at the end to reward that investment.”

The UUP has also vowed to resolve the post-primary transfer controversy which has rumbled on for four years since the examination was scrapped in 2007.

Its manifesto states: “Our policy is to retain academic selection, but the current situation, where there are two unregulated tests in play, is not acceptable.

“We will move to seek the introduction of a single test for the period of two years (from 2012), giving the space to agree a new assessment process as a final replacement for the 11-plus.”

However, Mr McCrea conceded that Sinn Fein would resist any attempt to introduce into legislation a single academic test for post-primary transfer.

“We want to try and encourage the coming together of the two tests (AQE and GL) that are out there.

“We would not be able to do it by legislation because there would be a block from Sinn Fein.”

Mr McCrea concluded: “But we can remove barriers that are preventing children from getting guidance, make it easier for parents to get advice from the schools and engage with everyone to achieve a consensus on the best way forward.”

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