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Sinn Fein Education minister John 0'Dowd: 'A move away from academic selection is a key cornerstone'

By Lindsay Fergus

What Education Minister John O'Dowd has to say about the state of Northern Ireland education


"In a significant number of areas we are having a detrimental effect on a number of very, very good post-primary schools because the local grammar schools are taking in such a wide range of intake."


"I am going to continue to work to persuade schools to move away from academic selection. I think it is a central policy and a key cornerstone of improving our education system for our schools to move away from that. I think it would be irresponsible of me as Education Minister just to sit back on my laurels and say, well, things are operating the way they are so be it. I am planning to meet all the interested voices in this debate over the coming weeks. I will assess what to do next after I have spoken to those groups and individual representative bodies and then I will outline what I believe the best way forward is."


"I am going to continue in terms of what Caitriona Ruane attempted to achieve through dialogue. Caitriona wanted to work with the other political parties in this Assembly, she attempted to work with the various bodies on the outside of this Assembly, and her proposals were rejected. We are into a new mandate now. I wish to, as I have said, sit down and discuss the issues with those on either side of the debate. There's a greater confidence among the political parties around the Executive table. There is a sense now we have the elections out of the road, we've got to know each other over the last four/five years and we have built up a working relationship that we can do things differently from the past so let's not pre-empt discussions with the sectors or even other political parties."


"Am I prepared to make difficult decisions? Yes. Politics is about making difficult decisions and your decisions may not be immediately popular or win you any tributes, but if you wish to be popular go on The X Factor. As long as I can feel within myself that those difficult decisions have been made for the right reasons then I will be making those decisions."


"I think even if we were in a more favourable financial position there's an argument for rationalising our schools estate."


"But where schools do not improve and continue to fail the young people who they serve, then I have a number of choices I have to make.

Can I replace the school management body? Is the school financially viable? Can I merge or amalgamate that school with surrounding schools in the area? All those decisions will be made on what are the educational outcomes for the young people that school is serving."


"Schools know the budgetary constraints not only on themselves but on the department. That is the difficult and hard reality of the situation we face. There will be disappointment among schools out there."

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