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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 March 2008, 12:55 GMT
Area key to post 11-plus plans
Caitriona Ruane
The education minister says area groups will make reform decisions
Children's post-primary education in Northern Ireland will depend on the area they live in.

A central group and five area groups are being set up to bring forward proposals on the future of education after the end of the 11-plus this year.

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane outlined the proposals in the assembly on Tuesday.

She insisted that she will not be rushed in the decision process, which she claims "is not a shotgun wedding".

The final 11-plus exam will take place this year, and the education minister has been under pressure to announce what will replace it.

The area-based groups have been given a deadline of October 2008 to report back on their recommendations.

KEY DECISIONS
Where schools should be built
How they can share classes
How more subjects can be offered
How transport to schools can be made more efficient

Ms Ruane said she has still kept all post-primary options open, the possibilty of transfer at 11 or at 14 "will be different depending on where you live".

She said she was not proposing "a one size fits all system".

The six groups will make decisions on where schools should be built, how they can share classes, how more subjects can be offered to pupils at GCSE and A level, and how transport to schools can be made more efficient.

One central group will take the lead, with representatives from the education and library boards and sectors such as Catholic, integrated and Irish language. Another five groups will be set up to deal with local situations.

Ms Ruane has promised to announce the chairs of the six groups by the end of the week.

Unionist members are concerned that the representatives of protestant churches are not officially listed as members of the groups.

The minister says all sections of the community will be represented on the groups.

Sharing resources

Ms Ruane believes that co-operation between schools and colleges in sharing facilities and expertise is crucial.

"What we are proposing in future is a situation where young people will have a choice of at least 24 courses at key Stage 4 and 27 at post-16," she said.

She said there will be "at least one third are academic, at least a third vocational or technical and the other third made up of an appropriate combination of the two".

She hopes that a new system can begin to be established in April 2009.

However, full area-based plans covering pre-school, primary and post-primary on the model outlined are not expected to be in place until 2010 at the earliest.



SEE ALSO
11-plus alternative put forward
03 Mar 08 |  Northern Ireland
Minister scraps the 11-plus exam
04 Dec 07 |  Northern Ireland

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