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Selection debate isn’t finished yet, insist Ulster grammars

By Noel McAdam

Grammar schools have insisted that the argument over academic selection is not over — despite the Education Minister’s claim that the battle has been won.

Rival political parties have also hit out angrily at Caitriona Ruane’s comments in today’s Belfast Telegraph interview, branding them “hare-brained” and “completely unrealistic”.

And the body which represents grammar schools across the province said there is now a particular responsibility on the Stormont parties to consider carefully who takes over the Education portfolio after the May Assembly election.

Director of the Governing Bodies Association, John Hart, said: “I think the minister is fooling only herself in trying to convince us that the debate surrounding academic selection is over. Some 26,000 parents last year did not think it was over.

“As we have said in the past, the minister washed her hands of responsibility for academic selection, so she would be better letting those with a more responsible approach get on with it, instead of petty badgering.

“Given the difficult experience the education sector has had in the last five years, I think there is a particular responsibility upon all parties in Stormont to consider who they appoint as the next Minister for Education carefully.”

Mervyn Storey, DUP chair of the Assembly’s education committee, said there was no prospect of increased harmonisation and called proposals to boost the provision of Irish “hare-brained”.

“This minister has presided over the most contentious and divisive area of this Assembly,” the DUP MLA said.

“The talk of harmonisation is nothing more than a political tool to try and impress Sinn Fein supporters.

“There will be no compulsory Irish in schools, the last census showed less than 10% have a working knowledge of it and I don’t anticipate any increased demand.”

The North Antrim MLA said the new Education Minister after May 5 needed to concentrate on the basics — like teaching English and arithmetic — and the looming threat of hundreds of teacher redundancies.

On the expansion of Irish, Alliance education spokesman Trevor Lunn said: “It is completely unrealistic and unnecessary.”

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