Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

End transfer chaos of postcode lottery

Education minister Caitriona Ruane
Education minister Caitriona Ruane

This newspaper - backed up by thousands of parents - has repeatedly urged Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane, and her Executive colleagues to sort out the chaos surrounding the transfer procedure to second-level education.

Sadly, the issue remains unresolved and pupils and parents throughout the province will again begin the process of sitting selection tests in a few weeks time with all the attendant stress.

As we report today, pupils wishing to attend grammar schools in the province may well face disappointment depending - not on their grades or marks as should be the case - but on where they live. Essentially a postcode lottery could determine if they are admitted to the school of their choice. Some schools in Belfast only accepted pupils who achieved the highest grades or marks this year while others in places like Londonderry, Omagh and Armagh were willing to take pupils with much lower achievement.

Irrespective of where one stands on the question of selection, it has to be admitted that the current system is inherently flawed in that it does not simply reward achievement on an equitable basis throughout the province.

But we only know this because of the efforts of this newspaper to collate the statistics through the use of Freedom of Information requests to all 67 schools which ran unofficial entrance examinations for the first time last year. Ms Ruane has ordered that the breakdown of the schools' intakes should not be included in the transfer booklets issued to guide parents through the process of moving to secondary level education.

That is a denial of vital information to parents when they are making their decision on which school to send their children to. Had it not been for this newspaper's intensive investigations they would have no idea of the grades or marks their children may have to achieve to gain entry. Yet again the politicians at Stormont have failed parents seeking to do the best for their children. That is unforgiveable and we repeat our call for an end to the chaos - and soon.

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