Page last updated at 16:58 GMT, Thursday, 15 May 2008 17:58 UK

Ruane plans 'need DUP's support'


Catriona Ruane speaking to BBC Newsline's Donna Traynor

Caitriona Ruane's plans to reform academic selection cannot go ahead without DUP and executive support, Ian Paisley has said.

The first minister said her education proposals were not the basis for a way forward.

Ms Ruane brought her proposals for the future of primary school transfer to the executive amid claims they are unworkable.

The executive meeting ended without a full discussion of the plans.

She brought her proposals for the future of primary school transfer to the executive amid claims they are unworkable.

The full discussion she had hoped for did not take place.

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane
Caitríona Ruane met executive colleagues at Stormont

Ms Ruane said there were parties "who were anti-change in relation to education".

"It is disappointing that colleagues who claimed that they wanted a discussion on the proposals didn't even engage.

"What happened today was an attempt to frustrate change. I will not be frustrated and I am not demoralised."

She added: "This year is the last year of the 11-plus. These proposals are sensible... we need change and I am going to be the education minister who brings about that change."

'Supported a proposal'

Mr Paisley said: "The education minister can make any suggestion she wants to. However, it will not come into force until she has the support of the DUP and the endorsement of the executive.

"This is now a matter for the executive to deliberate and to decide upon.

"We supported a proposal for a sub-committee of the executive to deal with this - this was rejected by Sinn Fein.

Ian Paisley said the proposals were not the basis for a way forward
Ian Paisley said the proposals were not the basis for a way forward

"We supported a proposal by Margaret Ritchie that the executive as a whole would discuss the issue of post-primary education - this was rejected by Sinn Fein. This is an entirely unacceptable position."

The minister's proposals have been criticised by grammar schools who said their acceptance of them would be "like turkeys voting for Christmas".

Frank Bunting of teachers' union, INTO, said the plan was a sensible and pragmatic roadmap out of the impasse.

Last December, Ms Ruane announced the transfer test, commonly known as the 11-plus, would come to an end in 2008.

Her plans include a temporary extension of academic selection for "a transitional period".

INTO is in favour of non-selective education, but gave the proposals a guarded welcome.

'New tests'

Mr Bunting said: "Teachers and parents favour incremental change. The proposed three years transitional arrangements offer the opportunity for a more unifying debate to take place on transfer to post-primary education.

"It is an opportunity which the educational community will largely appreciate and hopefully the opportunity will not be spoilt by political squabbling and point scoring."

A proposal to extend testing at age 11 would need legislation passed and the minister has warned of an "unregulated future", where schools run their own entrance tests.

Ms Ruane is to propose a form of testing to continue for three years, but there will be a limit on the number of pupils grammar schools can take on that basis.

It is believed the minister could commission new tests which encompass broader educational areas than the current transfer test.

These tests would be developed and marked by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment, continuing for about three more years.

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04 Mar 08 |  Northern Ireland

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