Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Pupils betrayed by schools stalemate

The A-level class of 2010 deserve congratulations for another year of outstanding results, with more than 98% achieving pass marks in their exams, and 9% getting the very coveted A* grade.

Once again, the province's pupils have produced the best results in the UK, a credit to their own hard work, the diligence and expertise of their teachers and, possibly, a reflection of the grammar school system. The hope now is that most of the young people will gain the places they desire in third-level education, although it seems that a significant number will be disappointed due to the unprecedented competition for undergraduate courses.

However, the exceptional results should not mask the continuing crisis in education in Northern Ireland. In spite of exhortations from this newspaper and strident demands from parents, politicians at Stormont appear no closer to resolving their differences over how the education system should be structured and run. We have made it clear repeatedly that we are not in the business of prescribing any particular system - apart from the obvious desire to retain the ethos which allows academically able pupils to fulfil their potential, while at the same time equipping those with a more vocational bent the skills they need for the world of work.

It is incumbent on the Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane, to begin sorting out the mess. She has a vision of how she wants the education system structured - a vision which is at odds with many of her political counterparts. However deeply held her convictions on education and the abolition of selection, she must now begin an earnest and open-minded discussion with other parties.

The talented generations of young people in Northern Ireland, and their teachers, need to have a clearly sign-posted route through the education system, from primary school to university or college. It is shameful that a virtual stalemate has existed for two years on the way forward. That is a betrayal of current pupils of all ages.

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