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Pupils are top priority: Ruane

By Lisa Smyth

Stormont Education Minister Caitriona Ruane yesterday denied she was oblivious to the stress the uncertainty over post-primary education is causing schoolchildren.

She was speaking after the Belfast Telegraph revealed that just 72 days remain before the deadline passes for work to begin on a replacement for the doomed 11-plus.

As thousands of P7 pupils prepare to sit the second 11-plus test this Friday, time is fast running out for the Education Minister to announce details of the new post-primary transfer system.

The body responsible for the implementation of the transfer test, the Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment, has told the Telegraph that it has set a deadline of January 31 next year for direction from Caitriona Ruane if it is to create an alternative transfer test that can run in conjunction with the revised curriculum.

The 11-plus is due to be axed next year and so far Ms Ruane has refused to be pressed on making an announcement about a new transfer system.

While she has appealed for calm from teachers and parents on the matter, she was coming under increasing pressure today to make her intentions public.

As a spokesman from the Department of Education confirmed that Ms Ruane has no imminent plans to make an announcement, Education Committee member Basil McCrea called for clarity and challenged the Minister to reveal the timetable she is working to.

He said: "I think we need to know if the Minister agrees with the deadline set by CCEA. There are few things more important to parents than the future of their child's education so she is putting everyone in a very unfair position by refusing to enter into debate on this."

But yesterday Ms Ruane faced accusations in the Assembly that her failure to produce a replacement was leading people to view her as callous and uncaring.

During robust exchanges between the Minister and unionist MLAs, Ms Ruane reiterated her opposition to the transfer test, claiming it was unfair that children's futures were being decided by two high-stakes exams.

Responding to claims that she was uncaring to put parents and children under such stress by keeping them in the dark, the Minister said she cared deeply for every schoolchild.

She said: "I will make sure we bring forward proposals that put every child at the centre of education rather than start with institutions and matching children to institutions," she said.

"My proposals will be designed to build on the strengths of our system.

"I am modernising a 1947 institutional model - one that would not be acceptable in any other part of the world."

Belfast Telegraph


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