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Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 17:36 GMT
Kennedy 'will abolish 11-plus'
Progress towards abandoning the 11-plus school transfer test will continue following the suspension of devolution Northern Ireland's new education minister Jane Kennedy has said.

In a written answer to a Commons question, Northern Ireland Office minister Jane Kennedy indicated that she intended to follow the course of action set out by her predecessor, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness.

On 14 October, answering ministerial questions on the last day of the assembly before it was suspended, Mr McGuinness said he hoped the government would honour his decision to abolish the current secondary level education selection system.

He made the decision to abolish the 11-plus just a few days before devolution was suspended following a consultation process on the Burns report.

Jane Kennedy made her intentions known in Commons answer
Jane Kennedy made her intentions known in Commons answer

There was an outcry from Ulster Unionist Party and Democratic Unionist Party assembly members.

Devolution was suspended by the Northern Ireland secretary because of a row over alleged IRA activity including allegations of IRA spying within the NIO.

Roy Beggs, the Ulster Unionist MP for East Antrim had asked the secretary of state to delay implementation of Mr McGuinness's decision.

He said: "This decision by Jane Kennedy is not taking into account the results of the Northern Ireland household survey on the 11-plus published at the start of this month, which showed the majority of people who responded were in favour of maintaining academic selection in some form.

"The comprehensive style system the former minister for education wants to introduce to Northern Ireland is the system being phased out in England after being held responsible for the continual decline in educational standards on the mainland.

'Senseless'

"I see absolutely no sense in repeating these mistakes in Northern Ireland and running the risk of denigrating an education system that already produces positive results.

"Selection is an inherent part of any education system, and it has to be accepted that it will exist in our schools in one shape or another.

"It is there not only to service the needs of the more academically gifted pupils but also to ensure that the educational needs of children of all levels of ability are catered for."

But in her Commons answer, Jane Kennedy reiterated Martin McGuinness view that there was almost universal support for the abolition of the current transfer tests, and that there was a predominant view that academic selection should be ended.

Ms Kennedy indicated that she would continue the process of trying to find an alternative system "which would be fair to all children".

Mr McGuinness did not recommend a system to replace the 11-plus.

A previous report recommending the scrapping of the 11-plus was shelved in 1971 because the then devolved assembly was suspended.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI education correspondent Maggie Taggart:
"The minister seemed to indicate that she would continue the process of trying to find an alternative system"
See also:

17 Oct 02 | N Ireland
14 Oct 02 | N Ireland
17 May 02 | N Ireland
02 May 02 | N Ireland
22 May 01 | N Ireland
24 Oct 01 | N Ireland
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