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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 December 2007, 17:27 GMT
Unionists threaten selection plan
Education Minister Caitriona Ruane
Caitriona Ruane announced her plan to the assembly
Plans to scrap academic selection in Northern Ireland could be put in jeopardy after unionists threatened to block the legislation.

Earlier, Education Minister Caitriona Ruane said the transfer test for P7 pupils would be scrapped next year.

Instead, Ms Ruane told the assembly, pupils would take major decisions about their education at the age of 14.

However, the voting system at the assembly hands both unionists and nationalists a veto over new laws.

Ms Ruane declined to give a straight answer when asked whether the new system would be subject to such a cross-community vote.

'Reguations'

Some Ulster Unionists have expressed concern that by using "regulations" rather than a new law, the minister might avoid a cross-community vote.

But, DUP sources have told the BBC that because passing new regulations will require what is known as a "negative resolution" of the assembly, the plan can still be forced to a vote.

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Sinn Fein sources acknowledge this, but counter that the 11-plus is gone and will not be coming back.

If the DUP tries to reintroduce academic selection to any new transfer criteria, Sinn Fein said nationalists would be able to use cross-community voting to stop such a move in its tracks.

Speaking in the assembly earlier on Tuesday, Ms Ruane said she did not want any academic selection.

The Sinn Fein minister also said that the government may withdraw funding for any new testing procedure that some grammar schools might introduce.

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
One grammar school principal's view on the plans



SEE ALSO
Minister scraps the 11-plus exam
04 Dec 07 |  Northern Ireland
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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