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Caitriona Ruane departure ‘is a chance to make progress’

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Caitriona Ruane

Caitriona Ruane

Caitriona Ruane

Educationalists have said the removal of Caitriona Ruane as Education Minister will provide a “real opportunity” for progress in Northern Ireland’s schools.

Head teachers and governing bodies have welcomed the selection of John O’Dowd, former education spokesman for Sinn Fein, to the post.

They said the decision not to reappoint Ms Ruane, who made several unpopular education decisions, was a step forward for parents and pupils.

The Governing Bodies Association, which represents voluntary grammar schools, said there had been a “breakdown of trust” under the previous minister.

Director John Hart said he hoped the appointment of Mr O’Dowd marked a “turning of a page in the debate” on education. He said he planned to meet with the new Sinn Fein minister urgently to discuss the approval of governors to sit on local school boards.

“Transfer has obviously dominated the headlines and we hope that Mr O’Dowd will come to the portfolio with a determination to seek agreement and consensus,” Mr Hart added.

“We must hear less ideology and more concern for the views of parents and pupils.”

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Former Education Minister Ms Ruane took a number of controversial decisions during her four-year role in the post. After scrapping the transfer test in 2008, she announced plans to axe annual interviews between principals and primary seven parents.

Earlier this year Belfast’s High Court ruled that her decision not to fund a £15m new school for Loreto Grammar in Omagh was an abuse of power.

Ms Ruane fuelled speculation that she would continue as Education Minister in the new Assembly.

Speaking after his selection last night, Mr O’Dowd said his stance on the unofficial transfer tests run by some schools was the same as Ms Ruane’s. Asked whether he thought pupils should have to sit the tests, he said it was a matter for the schools who set them.


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