Minister talks sense on school selection
The logic of the position adopted by Education Minister Peter Weir on academic selection is compelling. It is clear from the number of pupils taking the various transfer tests that parents and many schools are in favour of the process, in spite of the ending of the old 11-plus examination.
The 11-plus was ended under Sinn Fein stewardship of the ministry, and although successive party ministers have been ideologically opposed to the test, that has not deterred a significant section of the public.
Mr Weir is correct. The two sides in the argument remain rigid in their stance that they are opposing beliefs, and to continue with that trench warfare is both futile and harmful to the education of our children.
Very many people in this society owe their social mobility to the fact that they were successful in the old 11-plus, gained a good grammar school education and possibly went on to further education, considerably boosting their career opportunities.
Those people and others of a like mind want the same opportunities for their children. And why should they be denied them?
Surely the people most entitled to choice are parents?
While Mr Weir may be pro-selection, all he is proposing is to sweep away the obstacles that were put in front of schools and pupils ahead of transfer tests.
There was almost a stigma to selection, with pupils and parents having to go to considerable expense to receive tutoring to enhance chances of passing.
Now primary schools, if they wish, will be able to provide test materials, teaching in test procedures during normal classes, coaching in technique and familiarisation with test settings. There is no compulsion for schools to do so, but, equally importantly, there is no barrier to them making those choices.
We recognise that a significant number of people are opposed to selection and we share their belief that all secondary schools should seek to provide the best possible education and widest choice of curriculum to all pupils. That is a point that the minister also recognises, and he should deliver on the expectations of those parents and pupils also.
However, it is encouraging that Mr Weir, so soon after taking office, has given greater freedom to schools within the existing framework to deliver to their pupils the choice of education path that they and their parents desire.