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Caitriona ‘encouraging private sector schools’

Perhaps Caitriona Ruane has been cleverer than she is being given credit for.

The deregulation of the transfer process has resulted in fewer children applying for grammar school places.

This is likely to mean that many bright working-class children will be attending high schools in September, while many grammar schools will be taking children from a much wider academic base.

Is this comprehensivisation by stealth? The move by the Minister to remove funding from preparatory schools attached to grammar schools may encourage a private sector in education.

The withdrawal of funding may result in a number deciding to opt for independent status.

Rockport School in Co Down is the only truly independent age 3–16 school in the province and the only survivor of a number of independent schools that once thrived in Northern Ireland.

In England, where most children are educated in comprehensives, there is a strong private sector which educates 7% of the population and achieves a significant percentage of the top examination grades.

With the likelihood of swingeing cuts in the public sector and the dilution of the academic profiles of many grammar schools, many parents may take the view that money spent on an independent education is a wise investment. It would be ironic if the Minister’s efforts to drive forward a more equitable education system in Northern Ireland actually results in the growth of a significant private sector.

CLARE OSBORNE

Principal, Rockport School

Holywood, Co Down

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