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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 March 2008, 10:20 GMT
Church 'school exclusion' anger
Caitriona Ruane
The education minister says area groups will make reform decisions
Protestant church-leaders have criticised NI's education minister over area planning groups.

Caitriona Ruane announced the groups - which will determine post-primary school provision - last week.

The three main Protestant churches - Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist - expressed "deep disquiet" saying they had been excluded.

Ms Ruane denied any churches were being excluded and said there "must have been a breakdown in communication".

"I spoke with senior representatives of the transferers representing all three of the Protestant churches and I spoke with them on Tuesday and I spoke with them on Friday and I informed them that they would be on the central group and that they would be on the five local groups," she said.

Earlier, CoI Archbishop of Armagh Alan Harper said the minister had "miscalculated" on the issue and that the churches would be "very willing partners".

"I don't take the view that we should no longer be regarded as stakeholders in this matter," he said.

"We now seem to be being specifically squeezed out of the process and I don't think that members of the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian Church the Methodist Church and the other churches across Northern Ireland will be pleased to see that happening."

On Tuesday, the assembly was told that 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.

The central group will take the lead, with representatives from the education and library boards and sectors such as Catholic, integrated and Irish language.

Unionist assembly members expressed concern that the representatives of Protestant churches were not officially listed as members of the groups.

Area key to post 11-plus plans
04 Mar 08 |  Northern Ireland
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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