29/11/2001

Education seminars discuss future of education in NI

The Review Body on Post-Primary Education has been involved in a series of Information Seminars for teachers and other educationalists designed to clarify the proposals outlined in its vision report about education for the 21st century in Northern Ireland.

Speaking after a seminar at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast, Gerry Burns, Chairman of the Review Body said: “There can be no doubt that the recommendations we have made in our Report have major implications for our education system, for our children, and for parents, teachers and the wider community. I believe it is crucial for everyone to fully appreciate and consider the detail of our proposals as a whole before drawing conclusions.

Mr Burns stressed that the Review Body was totally convinced that change was not only desirable, but also inevitable.

He said: “We have concluded that the current post-primary system, designed for the circumstances of the 20th Century, is no longer able to meet the challenges and obligations facing the education service and society in the 21st Century. It cannot be right that some two-thirds of young people are separated from their peers and perceived as less able at age 11. To erode their self-esteem and limit their prospects is indefensible. This is not the fault of our schools, rather it is the outcome of our selective system and the culture of competition and separateness within which schools are forced to operate.”

Mr Burns explained that the abolition of the controversial 11 plus test was essential for Northern Ireland’s educational future. He said: “We propose that transfer should instead be based on informed parental preference. In other words parents, advised by the primary school and in full knowledge of their children’s abilities, aptitudes and needs, would decide which schools would be most appropriate to cater for those needs. This information would be provided by a new Pupil Profile, which would contain a detailed and holistic assessment of each pupil’s progress and future developmental needs, based on the last 3 years of primary school. The significance of the Pupil Profile lies in its ability to focus on and respond to the individual needs of every child.”

Another key recommendation by the Review Body is the establishment of 20 networks of post-primary schools, called Collegiates, within which schools would co-exist on the basis of co-operation and inter-dependence, mutual respect and equal status.

Five further information seminars are due to take place in December 2001, in Belfast, Omagh, Newtownards, Lisburn and Portadown. (AMcE)

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