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UUP will not reinstate 11-plus: Mike Nesbitt

By Lindsay Fergus

The 11-plus will not be reinstated by the Ulster Unionist Party if it takes on responsibility for education at Stormont following next month’s Assembly elections.

However, the party has vowed to end the transfer chaos for the thousands of pupils who currently have to sit up to five examinations in Primary Seven.

Mike Nesbitt, Ulster Unionist Assembly candidate for Strangford, said: “The Ulster Unionist Party are no fans of the 11-plus, nor are we proposing to bring it back. But to scrap it without an agreed replacement scores ‘F’ for fail.

“It’s left families facing the dilemma of whether to subject their children to no fewer than five unregulated examination papers — unregulated means the state has lost control of state education. These tests are applied against the express wishes of the Education Minister.”

Although the UUP is in favour of academic selection, Mr Nesbitt added: “The challenge is not to design a test a 10-year-old can sit on a Saturday morning in autumn. The challenge is to design an education system that allows every child to explore their own potential — academic, vocational, sporting, artistic and the rest.”

And he sent this frank message to Education Minister Caitriona Ruane: “If Sinn Fein really care for our children, step away from Rathgael House (the Education Department’s Bangor headquarters).

“Since devolution was reintroduced, there have been many unexpected outcomes. None is as shocking as the way in which Sinn Fein have used education as a battleground, or political football if you prefer,” said Mr Nesbitt.

“The minister has failed tens of thousands of children. She has failed our schools and she has failed the devolution project.”

Despite the severe budgets cuts imposed on education, the UUP believes it can rebalance the books to put the resources where they are needed most.

“We support — but cautiously — the establishment of a single administrative body,” said Mr Nesbitt.

“It makes sense to redirect resources to frontline teaching, but we will not support a political party using a body like ESA (the Education and Skills Authority) as a means of social engineering.

“What I would fear is that Sinn Fein would use it as a means of imposing their ideology on every school.”

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