Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: School bully Ruane must change tack

Caitriona Ruane has mishandled education reform ever since she was appointed Education Minister.

She forged ahead with her party’s doctrinaire policy of abolishing the 11-plus transfer process without getting agreement for any replacement. Then she tried to persuade grammar schools not to proceed with their own selection tests and failed.

Now she is trying to bully teachers into becoming her own educational storm troopers, stamping out selection wherever they see it. She has urged teachers not to engage in private tuition of pupils for the grammar school’s breakaway tests.

That is an incredibly arrogant stance for the Minister to take.

She has no right to tell teachers what they should or should not do in their private time. While many people may share the Minister’s objection to tutoring of pupils for selection tests — it does give pupils from more affluent families an advantage — it was prevalent in the past to coach pupils through the 11-plus and it will continue as long as exam-based selection of any kind exists.

As well, she is attempting to create division between teachers, pupils and their parents. Parents want teachers to prepare their children as well as possible for transfer to secondary level education. In some instances that will involve private tuition. To refuse any parents’ request for extra tuition would only create ill-feeling.

If the Minister really wants to create a new educational process, then she needs to start talking to her Executive and Assembly colleagues and begin hammering out a policy which can attract as wide a consensus as possible. Instead she is trying to present the other parties with a fait accompli which represents her party’s policy on education.

Surely she must realise that her present stance is unsustainable. She makes valid points about inequalities in the current education system but these are being lost because of her dogmatic |insistence on introducing reforms solely on her own terms.

Belfast Telegraph

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