Belfast Telegraph

Sort it out appeal falls on deaf ears

By any standards, the failure of MLAs to sort out the education transfer test chaos is the greatest single indictment of the power-sharing administration at Stormont. Tomorrow 7,000 children will sit the first of three unregulated examinations in pursuit of entry into state schools and next week a similar number will begin their tests for Catholic schools entry. We make no apology for reiterating our Sit Down and Sort It Out plea to the politicians, but it is an appeal which, astoundingly, is falling on deaf ears.

Far from trying to reach a compromise on what should replace the axed 11-plus exam, politicians of all hues appear to be avoiding what is one of the most fundamental issues facing the local administration. The Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane, disgracefully refuses to talk to other parties about the transfer procedure. Planned weekly talks on the issue between the DUP, UUP, SDLP and Alliance Party have not been held since June.

There has been no response to an important report compiled by educationalists representing all school types which was given to politicians earlier this year. Queried about progress on sorting out the chaos, the SDLP's education spokesman could only come up with a petulant "none of your business" response. That is the language of the playground, rather than of a party of government.

This newspaper has been careful not to take a neutral stance on what should replace the 11-plus. That is the job of elected politicians taking on board public and professional advice. Our only desire - one which we feel is shared by thousands of parents throughout the province - is to have in place a system which gives every child equality of opportunity and allows for successful streaming as children progress.

But the inaction by politicians is inexcusable. It is an abdication of responsibility. MLAs of all parties have failed a very basic, but important, test - to devise a workable policy for a crucial everyday service - and failed it miserably.

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