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O'Dowd's threat to thousands of children

The recent threat to primary school staff from our education minister, John O'Dowd, is totally unacceptable (News, May 10). He has stated that, if primary school teachers are caught preparing pupils for AQE/GL examinations, there will be significant sanctions.

More than 13,000 pupils sat these tests last year. For me, there is a simple reason why their parents/guardians chose to let them complete the tests - getting the best possible choice for the future of their children. All the evidence points to the fact that, if a young person is to have the best possible range of choices for a career, they have to be well-qualified. University graduates have a better choice of future careers and a better chance of a well-paid job.

In Northern Ireland, if I want my child to have the best chance of going to university, then grammar schools statistically provide the best chance.

Many grammar schools here, which send the vast majority of their school-leavers to universities, choose their Year 8 intake based on AQE/GL.

When Mr O'Dowd threatens primary teachers with sanctions if they prepare pupils for these tests, he is denying many thousands of ordinary boys and girls from ordinary homes the vital help they need.

To deny pupils the best opportunity to get into grammar school is simply a travesty. I hope primary school teachers and indeed principals are brave enough to make a stand on this issue.

OBSERVER

Belfast

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