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Editor's Viewpoint

Education Minister Peter Weir was wrong to snub worried parents

Editor's Viewpoint


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Education Minister Peter Weir

Education Minister Peter Weir

Education Minister Peter Weir

Apart from the NHS, education has been the public service hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. It has caused severe disruption at pivotal periods of thousands of children's lives, forced parents to attempt to home school and to work from home in order to look after their offspring.

Trying to reopen the schools is also fraught with difficulty. Teachers' unions had long and, sometimes, acrimonious discussions with Education Minister Peter Weir over how the return to the classroom could be managed and there are obvious concerns over the absence of GCSE and A Level examinations and whether the always controversial transfer test for Primary 7 pupils should go ahead.

No one can deny that Mr Weir has a busy agenda to deal with, yet it beggars belief that he is too busy to meet a representative of parents concerned about the distress the transfer test debacle is causing.

The parents of two children have won High Court permission to challenge decisions to delay the tests and a number of Catholic grammar schools and an integrated school have said they will not use the transfer test results to determine which pupils they will admit in 2021.

Almost 1,000 people have signed a petition to suspend academic selection and Alisha Briggs had asked to meet Mr Weir to express the concerns of those parents about the effects of the dispute on their children.

They claim that some children - aged 10 and 11 ­- have been so upset they have occasionally stopped eating and are sleeping badly. Some have even talked about self-harm.

There is no doubt that the transfer procedure heaps enormous pressure on young children at the best of times, but this year, with additional concerns over how social distancing will work in schools and whether they will be able to see their friends during the school day, the pressure has increased.

The Department of Education says the Minister is prepared to meet an Alliance MLA to discuss the parents' worries. If he can do that surely he could meet one of the mothers instead who could tell him of the problems from first hand experience.

That would assure the parents that he is taking them seriously and that their concerns will be weighed in the balance with all the other problems associated with restarting education later this year. No Minister is so busy they have not got 30 minutes to spare.

Belfast Telegraph