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Selection at 14 dismissed by grammars

Education Minister Catriona Ruane
Education Minister Catriona Ruane

By Kathryn Torney

Grammar school representatives have rejected a proposal from a number of their colleagues to scrap academic selection at 11 and replace it with selection at 14.

The Governing Bodies Association, which represents the province's 52 voluntary grammar schools, met on Friday to discuss a paper by three of its members.

The Belfast Telegraph has already revealed details of the document – which backs the scrapping of a selective test in P7 and instead proposes that selection can take place when it comes to pupils' subject choices at GCSE and A-level. The current 11-plus tests will be sat by pupils for the final time this term.

A statement from the GBA Executive has confirmed its support for an interim system proposal, put to public consideration earlier this year.

This proposal was not ruled out by the Sinn Fein Education Minister and the SDLP – even though it includes academic selection as an option for grammar schools.

The GBA proposed that all post-primary schools define themselves clearly and according to a standardised format – for example: an academic school, an all-ability school or a specialist music school.

Academic schools would be permitted to reject pupils ill-equipped to cope with an explicitly academic environment and cannot accept pupils simply because they have places available.

Transfer would take place at age 11 but pupils could transfer to another type of school at age 14, or any stage.

The GBA said today: “The Executive met on September 5th to discuss current transfer issues.

“We remain open to dialogue with other stakeholders, but the Executive confirms its transfer policy position as set out in the GBA proposals for an interim procedure, as described in the GBA policy issued in February 2008.''

The document informs other GBA members about informal discussions between three men – including former Methodist College principal Wilfred Mulryne - and other educationalists from secondary, integrated and Catholic maintained schools.

Mr Mulryne and the other report authors – John Young (for mer principal of Sullivan Upper) and Kevin Donaghy (principal of St Patrick's Grammar in Armagh) – are members of the GBA's executive committee.

Meetings have also taken place with Caitriona Ruane's special advisor Jackie McMullan and DUP education spokesman Mervyn Storey and were described in the paper as “encouraging”.

The paper states the GBA agreeing to abandon academic selection at age 11 in return for retaining academic selection at age 14 and again at age 16, would create the potential for a wider educational consensus and “offer Sinn Fein a good deal of what it appears to want while not denying the DUP something which it appears to value”.

And: “As far as GBA is concerned, we believe the fundamental question is not whether the changes we referred to are desirable, but recognising that change is unavoidable and deciding what the appropriate strategic response to this change should be.”

Belfast Telegraph

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