24/03/2010

Ruane Criticised Over 'Actionable' Advice

The Minister for Education and the Department of Education have been criticised for advising schools to follow guidance on selection which may leave them open to legal challenge.

The Governing Bodies Association has received legal advice on the Transfer 2010 policy.

The association represents 52 voluntary grammar schools across NI.

It is understood school authorities across the sectors are angry they were not warned of the possible legal pitfalls of ending academic selection.

They said this is what the NI Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane, strongly advised them to do despite it being the case that any significant change to a school's policy requires a formal development proposal. It has now emerged that dropping academic selection requires such a proposal.

SDLP Education spokesperson Dominic Bradley (pictured) has expressed his dismay that transfer guidelines Minister of Education Caitriona Ruane has given schools in Transfer 2010 are flawed and could expose them to legal action.

Commenting on the revelation that schools changing from selective to non-selective status legally need a formal development proposal - a fact ignored in the Minister's advice - Mr Bradley said: "This is not a question of schools putting obstacles in the way of change.
News Image
"If anything it is a question of the Minister putting schools at risk through a hastily cobbled together measure which does not meet the needs of schools.

"Schools are right to ensure that they are on solid legal ground before they act - what a pity the Minister hadn't taken the same care.

"We strongly support getting rid of selection, which is educationally unsound and socially unjust, but common sense suggests it is indeed a very significant change of policy for a school.

"The Minister is clearly wrong to dismiss this problem as a red herring, since everything she has done and said underlines the significance of such a change," he continued.

"She is also wrong when she says her Department will decide whether a change of school policy is significant, since it could be the courts that decide.

"If there is no legal problem here, why is she suddenly, three years down the road, offering to rush through formal development proposals for any school that wants them?

"It really is incredible that she did not see this one coming. I put a question to the Minister two weeks ago asking whether schools needed development proposals but I have still not got an answer," he revealed. "Caitríona Ruane is in a deep hole and digging furiously.

"She has 'lorded over' one mess after another in education and actively alienated not only the middle ground, but many who support all-ability schools.

"Her confrontational approach is now the biggest single obstacle to getting rid of academic selection," he fumed.

(BMcC/GK)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

17 April 2002
Catholic Bishops declare opposition to academic selection
The Stormont Education Minister Martin McGuinness has welcomed the Northern Catholic Bishops’ statement on the future process of academic selection. The Northern Bishops said in a statement on Tuesday April 16 that they wanted to “maintain and enhance quality but not promote elitism”.
06 October 2009
Republic's Minority School Cuts Opposed
Cutbacks in non Catholic schools across the Irish Republic are being opposed. It has emerged that Protestants in the State are to 'take the fight' to the Daíl to try to halt cuts to school budgets.
13 September 2012
Cancer-Fighting Primary School Programme Gets Education Minister's Backing
We all know that sunburn, smoking and obesity are risk factors for cancer. So now, parents will be glad to hear that a leading cancer charity has launched an education package to encourage healthy lifestyles in children as young as three and four.
05 March 2009
Education Minister Drums Up Support For Integration
With over 18,000 children and young people being educated in integrated schools across Northern Ireland already, the sector has an important role to play.
18 November 2011
O'Dowd 'Adds £40m' For Schools Budget
NI schools have won a 'boost' with news that the Stormont Education Minister, John O'Dowd, has reallocated millions of pounds to fund developments. Taken from earlier budget savings and cost-cutting measures, he said that figures of £10m, £15m and another £15m respectively would feed into the schools budget over the next three years.