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Is transfer at 14 the best option?

Published 12/09/2008

If we lived in a perfect world, where there were no deadlines, public and political agreement on the way forward and an endless supply of money, then school transfer at 14 might just work.

Many would point to the Dickson Plan in Craigavon as a model for success, but it needs to be remembered that it still uses academic selection as a criteria and this would not be acceptable to Education Minister Caitriona Ruane.

Aside from this, we have absolutely no political consensus on the way forward for our education system. While academic selection will cease next year, parents have been left in total confusion as to what will replace it.

The Dickson Plan involved a limited geographical area and a clearly defined number of schools.

It took years to get properly off the ground.

Imagine how long it would take for something similar to be rolled out across the province. Think of the planning and expenditure, the building programme, the disruption and the relocation of pupils, staff and schools. Realistically, something of such magnitude can’t just be cobbled together at the last minute!

Even if all was completed to everyone’s satisfaction, it would still be anyone’s guess as to whether the whole 11 to 14 changeover actually made any real difference to our already high educational performances.

Are pupil results under Dickson substantially, or only marginally, better than those already gained throughout the province?

If there is not a big difference, then perhaps we need to think again and ask whether, in these, belt tightening times, selection and transfer at 14 offers the best use of taxpayers’ money.

T J McClean

Belfast

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