As 2017 begins, parents across Northern Ireland will be thinking about prospective post-primary schools for their children.
Deciding on the right school can be a daunting prospect, however there is an abundance of information available to help young people and their families make that decision. Parents and pupils should read the information available and make their choices through their primary school ensuring that applications reach the Education Authority by February 10, 2017.
Every parent wants the best education for their child and as Education Minister I am committed to raising standards across all the education sectors to deliver high-quality learning and teaching for everyone. Regardless of school type, all schools must offer the very best education to their students.
I support the continued right of schools to use academic selection as a means of entry criteria.
I believe that every child, regardless of background, postcode, social group, religion or ethnicity should have the opportunity to be educated in a grammar school if they so wish. I would, however, like to simplify the current transfer test arrangements and ultimately secure agreement on a single test.
That is why I established a review panel that will make recommendations on a common assessment tool. That work is progressing and I am hopeful that, with schools' support, agreement can be found.
A good quality education in all schools is essential in preparing our young people for adulthood, equipping them with the skills, knowledge and confidence to enable them to become whatever they wish to be. There are many demands on our young people today. Our society needs many skills and attributes that will build our economy and increase our standing on the world stage.
It is future generations that will lead this country to bigger and better things and I have every faith that our education system will deliver the leaders of tomorrow. The responsibility, however, is not solely that of our teachers and schools.
We must all work together to deliver opportunities for our children to enable them to pursue the pathway that is best for them.
I want to ensure that academic standards are maintained and vocational pathways increased with more flexible and imaginative solutions found.
This year will not be without challenges and in the context where budgets are likely to come under increasing pressure year on year, we will have to work increasingly smarter and collaboratively, but I am confident that we can face those challenges together and deliver better outcomes for the children of Northern Ireland.