Page last updated at 18:37 GMT, Thursday, 24 April 2008 19:37 UK

Ruane attacks 'elitist' schools


"Sixty years ago, the south of Ireland abandoned this type of elitist system"

The education minister has said she is very disappointed by grammar schools planning to set up a company to run independent entrance exams.

More than 30 schools have said the tests in English and maths, will be held over either two or three days.

The Association for Quality Education said the exams would be held in venues across Northern Ireland.

However, Caitríona Ruane accused the schools of being elitist and said they could face legal action from parents.

"They have a choice, people always have a choice," the minister said.

"What I would say to them is think very carefully before you go down the route of bringing boards of governors into situations were they may find themselves spending their time in court."

The association said the tests would be compatible with the new primary school curriculum, with no charge for poorer families.

None of the schools involved are in the Catholic sector.

The association said it would rather testing was done within primary schools and run by the department of education.

However, it said since there was no sign of that happening it will run its own tests.

It is understood the substitute test could be bought from England.

'Freedom of choice'

The principal of Foyle and Londonderry College, Jack Magill, said the test would give parents freedom of choice.

"What the schools of the AQE (Association for Quality Education) are arguing for is the freedom to use academic selection as part of their criteria for entry," he said.

Playground scene
The association said it would not be an exit test for primary school pupils

"It doesn't mean to say that everybody has got to do the same thing. It's not an exit test for every child in primary school.

"What we are actually saying that would be different to the old 11-Plus is this is an entrace test for parents who want children to go to a particular school and that would be one item on our list of criteria for admission to the school."

But Brendan Harron from the teachers union, INTO, described the plan as elitist.

"You have got to ask yourself why exactly are they doing this?

"Even the name of the group, the Association for Quality Education, seeks to imply that children will only get a quality education in their schools and that there's some sort of second rate education available in all the other secondary schools in Northern Ireland.

"I find that quite shocking."

Ms Ruane has already rebuked a Catholic grammar school which has declared it will run its own admissions test.

Lumen Christi College in Londonderry and 40 other primary schools in the area were warned Ms Ruane's department would not pay for the tests or any legal challenges over the results.

However, the school principal said the education minister had no legal right to stop academic selection.

Schools involved

  • Antrim Grammar School
  • Ballyclare High School
  • Bangor Grammar School
  • Belfast High School
  • Belfast Royal Academy
  • Bloomfield Collegiate Grammar School
  • Cambridge House Grammar School
  • Carrickfergus Grammar School
  • Coleraine Academical Institution
  • Collegiate Grammar School, Enniskillen
  • Dalriada School
  • Down High School
  • Foyle and Londonderry College
  • Friends' School, Lisburn
  • Glenlola Collegiate School
  • Grosvenor Grammar School
  • Hunterhouse College
  • Larne Grammar School
  • Methodist College
  • Omagh Academy
  • Regent House School
  • Royal Belfast Academical Institution
  • Royal School, Armagh
  • Royal School, Dungannon
  • Strabane Grammar School
  • Strathearn School
  • Sulllivan Upper School
  • The Wallace High School
  • Banbridge Academy
  • Limavady Grammar School
  • Wellington College

Minister rebukes school test move
21 Apr 08 |  Northern Ireland
School plan for pupil selection
19 Mar 08 |  Northern Ireland

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