17/04/2002

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”.

Speaking afterwards Martin McGuinness said the statement, coming from what he described as the trustees of the majority of Catholic maintained schools, was “highly significant”.

In Northern Ireland there are 108 Catholic post-primary schools, 32 schools are grammar schools and 76 schools are non-grammar schools.

“I have stressed that academic selection is the key issue in this debate on new post-primary arrangements,” Mr McGuinness said.

“The Bishops’ statement makes clear their view that decisions about educational pathways should not be made on the basis of academic selection, either at age 11 or later, but on the basis of election and choice by pupils and parents, guided by teachers and career guidance counsellors, and on the basis of ongoing assessment.

“By taking a clear position on academic selection and setting out general principles, the Bishops have moved the debate forward.”

On Monday, the Education Minister received another boost from the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) who said that the status quo is not an option and academic selection must end. The Chairman of CCMS Bishop McAreavey said that “selection should end and be replaced by a system of election”.

It is understood that trustees, governors and heads of the 32 voluntary grammar schools will engage in a one-day conference later this month and meet the secondary school sector a fortnight later.

(AMcE)

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