28/01/2009

'Decisive' 11-plus Move Promised At Stormont

It's full marks for effort as Northern Ireland Education Minister Caitríona Ruane revealed this week that she intends to bring yet more proposals on replacing the controversial 11-plus exam to the Stormont Executive.

According to the BBC, she wants to begin a discussion "with a view to approving regulations with the force of law" tomorrow, with Sinn Féin sources saying that Ms Ruane wanted to "move forward decisively".

However, it has been her lack of clarity - and what some have branded as 'indecision' - that has since led many grammar schools in Northern Ireland to wash their hands of the Minister's evolving proposals and determine to hold their own independent tests to preserve academic selection.

Many politicians, parents and teachers are therefore concerned that there is still no final plan for what will replace the controversial exam next year.

This is especially true as she opposes academic selection, and favours instead the inclusion of demographic criteria such as the distance a child lives from a chosen school.

However, while she insists that the 15,000 Primary Seven children who sat Northern Ireland's 11-plus exam in November last year would be the last to do so, the Minister has since appeared to edge toward a 'sliding scale' which would more gradually introduce the removal of such selection processes.

In advance of the 'final' 2008 examination candidates receiving their results in February, there remains confusion with DUP sources also insisting Ms Ruane has failed to recognise that academic selection is 'safeguarded in law' which they said makes the chances of an Executive agreement on the matter extremely slim.

Confusion continues as some academic selection will remain - as a compromise for schools that have boycotted the Minister's stance.

Ms Ruane has permitted the schools to use English and maths tests, set and marked by the CCEA examining board.

Half of grammar school candidates will be selected through testing in the first year, with this process eventually being phased out over the following three years.

See: 60 Years Of 11+ Exam Ends Today?

(BMcC/JM)

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