The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education welcomes the decision of seven Catholic grammar schools to move beyond selection. As identified by the Catholic bishops, selection creates a socially divided society. It impacts on educational attainment, places a ceiling on expectation and deprives young people of the interaction with the full range of experiences and of others necessary for building a cohesive society.
As long as we continue to maintain a selective schools system, we cannot be surprised at the underachievement of working-class children.
Selection creates a false hierarchy of schools; it restricts the breadth of curriculum and perpetuates an archaic system of education.
Selection separates siblings and impacts on families, placing an unbearable burden on 11-year-olds caught up in a cycle of preparation, expectation, stress and disappointment.
For this reason, when the integrated model of education was developed, it was developed as an all-ability model of education. It was rightly recognised that the successful education which happens in our primary schools is all-ability.
Achieving a full and fair balance of ability in a selective system is challenging – particularly when grammar schools maintain their full enrolments through extending the range of ability from which they select.
This is why our integrated colleges are committed to ensuring that the needs of all children, including the most academic, are met.
The experience of two integrated schools which use partial selection and which are the most over-subscribed schools in Northern Ireland proves that parents prefer not grammar school education, but genuinely all-ability education.
Next year, a number of integrated colleges are planning to pilot a system of admissions, based on parental information, which will provide parents with that assurance and which will support the further dismantling of the selective system.
Noreen Campbell is CEO of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education