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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 May 2006, 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK
NI education reform 'must happen'
Education minister Maria Eagle at Loughview Integrated Primary School
Northern Ireland's new education minister has said despite opposition to ending academic selection, there is widespread agreement change must come.

Maria Eagle chose Loughview Integrated Primary School in Belfast for her first official visit on Tuesday.

She said she has been hearing opinions on the proposed new Education Order, which would end academic selection.

She defended government spending, despite cuts which include closing schools and special needs units.

"I am determined that Northern Ireland's education system will be world class and that every child has the opportunity to achieve his or her full potential," Ms Eagle said.

"We are implementing an exciting programme of reform and improvement across the education system, from pre-school to further and higher education to ensure that through education, every child and young person gets the very best start in life."

Future spending hinges on the review of the education system by Sir George Bain which the minister hopes to receive soon.

Ms Eagle, who replaced Angela Smith at the Northern Ireland Office, is responsible for education, employment and learning, investment and culture, arts and leisure.

She is the fourth direct rule education minister in three-and-a-half years.

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