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Thursday, 31 May, 2001, 06:29 GMT 07:29 UK
Human rights concerns over 11+
classroom
NI transfer system is under review
The Northern Ireland schools transfer system has come under fire in a report which says it could be in breach of international human rights standards.

The study, published by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, also warns that some secondary and grammar schools may be breaking the law by using interviews or children's sporting record in their selection process.

Report author Laura Lundy also criticises practises which she said could result in discrimination on the grounds of sex, religion, race and disability as well as freezing out young people from the most deprived backgrounds.

She said: "Access to effective education is a fundamental human right for all children.

"The research shows that on several counts the current system for admitting children to post-primary schools may be out of step with international standards and the government's policy on targeting social need.

"It is important that all who are involved in operating the system are made aware of these issues."

'Illegal criteria'

The commission's assessment was published ahead of thousands of children receiving letters from the education boards on Saturday, telling them which secondary or grammar school they have secured a place in for September.

A major review of the transfer progress is currently being carried out which could transform Northern Ireland's entire post-primary education system.

The report says a "significant number" of schools could be acting illegally by:

  • Using selection interviews to admit children to grammar schools;
  • Prioritising children on the basis of their behaviour or attendance at primary school;
  • Prioritising children on how their parents expressed their preferred school or type of school;
  • Favouring children on the basis of an ability for sports or music.

    The report warned schools could also be fostering inequality by:

  • Setting down a catchment area which indirectly discriminates on the basis of religion or race;
  • Considering attendance at primary school while not taking account of long-term sickness or a lifestyle like that of members of the travelling community
  • Looking at achievements in sport and music, depending on the numbers of boys and girls who can satisfy the criterion.

    The report also criticised the system because it said it did not promote opportunities for poorer children by considering whether a child had a sister or brother at the school when choosing between children with the same grades.

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    See also:

    28 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
    NI education debate begins
    05 Feb 00 | Northern Ireland
    Red letter day for pupils
    18 Jan 00 | Northern Ireland
    Vice-chancellor criticises transfer test
    05 Nov 99 | Education
    Questions over 11-plus exams
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