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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 December 2007, 11:28 GMT
Minister scraps the 11-plus exam
Education Minister Caitriona Ruane
Caitriona Ruane announced the move to the assembly
The controversial transfer test for P7 children will be scrapped from next year, NI's education minister has said.

Caitriona Ruane said the test, commonly known as the 11-plus, would come to an end in 2008.

Under Ms Ruane's proposals, pupils will take major decisions about their education at the age of 14.

She said her proposals were ambitious, but that they would end an "outdated and unequal education system" which labelled 11-year-olds as "failures".

There is expected to be widespread opposition to the abolition by several interest groups.

READ MINISTER'S STATEMENT

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In the assembly on Tuesday, Ms Ruane made a statement on the future of post-primary education.

In her statement, she confirmed 14 as the key age.

The education minister said she did not want any academic selection and that the government may withdraw funding for any new testing procedure that some grammar schools might introduce.

However, several assembly members criticised the statement.

The chair of the education committee, DUP MP Sammy Wilson, said the minister's statement contained "a plateful of platitudes, but only a spoonful of substance".

He asked Ms Ruane: "Given the fact that there is going to be a gap between 2008 and 2011, how does she intend to give some assurance to school principals and to parents as to what will happen in that period?"

'Low on detail'

BBC Northern Ireland education correspondent Maggie Taggart said: "The minister's announcement is strong on aspiration, but low on detail.

"She says local area groups will be formed to decide what sort of schools they will have - whether they are for 11-14 year-olds, 14-19 or 11-19. There are no details about who will sit on the groups and what areas they will cover.

EDUCATION OPTIONS
Access within an 11-19 school
Transfer to an alternative 11-19 school
Access through an 11-19 school or a post 14 school
Such schools offer an 'Entitlement Framework' in collaboration with other schools or in a learning community
A local area may offer general provision in 11-14 schools
This would be followed by specialisms and diversity in 14 plus provision

"After 2010, if a school has too many applications, pupils will be selected on the grounds of where they live and whether they have family members already at the school."

The minister said she understood grammar schools may need time to adjust to a new system, but if they choose to run independent admissions arrangements, they may not get government funding.

"Making fundamental educational determinations for children at 11 is wrong," she told assembly.

"Such decisions for most children become irreversible.

"By moving the point of transition to 14, and by introducing more flexibility and agility into the structures, we will make it possible for the transformed education system to facilitate the deserved and diverse needs of children."

The future of academic selection has been the most contentious topic in education in Northern Ireland since former Education Minister Martin McGuinness announced plans to scrap the 11-plus transfer test five years ago.

The DUP raised the matter in the political negotiations which took place at St Andrews in Scotland and succeeded in staving off an outright ban on academic selection.



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Caitriona Ruane addressing Stormont



SEE ALSO
Reaction to abolition of 11-Plus
04 Dec 07 |  Northern Ireland
Children sit first transfer test
09 Nov 07 |  Northern Ireland
Boys aged nine turned off school
21 Nov 07 |  Northern Ireland
Children receive 11-plus results
03 Feb 07 |  Northern Ireland
Schools prepare for 11-plus end
03 Feb 06 |  Northern Ireland

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