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Personal innuendo has nothing to do with it

I was both disappointed and surprised by the article by Billy Young (March 1) attempting to refute the arguments in my article of the previous week. The disappointment came because I had not expected someone of his standing to stoop to unpleasant and inaccurate personal innuendo.

Just for the record, I did draw the attention of the Department of Education to potential flaws in the Transfer Test system that were later confirmed by research, but was told that as the tests met the requirements of the grammar schools they would not be changed.

My surprise arose from the fact that Mr Young chose to write the article without first having read my book. Had he done so he might have avoided some of the factual inaccuracies that he has included.

For example Mr Young claims that "a higher proportion of children from disadvantaged areas of Northern Ireland get to university than anywhere else in these islands". Not true. In fact our two universities fare badly compared to universities in other parts of the UK on this measure.

I commend the AQE for putting a lot of effort into making the tests they ran this year as smooth and stress-free as possible. However, in a few months some children will learn that they have failed to gain a grammar school place by a single mark.

Does Mr Young really believe that one mark is a reliable indication that they are unsuited to a grammar school education and, in his words, require education at a different pace? These are literally life-changing decisions imposed on very young children on the flimsiest of evidence.

ALASTAIR WALKER

Bangor, Co Down

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