Page last updated at 22:53 GMT, Tuesday, 21 October 2008 23:53 UK

Principals back selection tests

Children sitting an exam
Academic selection has proven a contentious issue

Academic selection should continue, according to a body which represents Catholic grammar school principals.

The Catholic Heads Association said schools had been given "limited leadership" on the issue by the Department of Education.

They also said a lack of progress had "caused apprehension".

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane said academic selection was wrong and added that she was "determined to continue to pursue a course to end it".

The minister is due to meet Catholic grammar school principals on Wednesday.

"The statement from the Catholic Heads Association sets out what is patently obvious, that the best option is regulation - that is what I have spent my time in office trying to bring about," she said.

"Towards that end, I brought forward compromise proposals which included academic selection on a diminishing basis over a three year period. This was an attempt to introduce a breathing space."

However, the association said the lack of direction and political progress had led to the probability of an unregulated transfer test system.

It proposes using new CCEA tests as a means of selection, but is against the minister's proposal of reducing the proportion of pupils who sit the test annually until it is phased out completely in three years.

Caitriona Ruane
Caitriona Ruane wants to end academic selection

"Until the appropriate legislation is in place, we propose that academic selection will continue to take place, preferably using the CCEA test which the minister has commissioned," they said in a statement.

"We simultaneously must seek consensus, across all sectors, in order to ensure that proper pathways are provided for all our young people.

"Until such time as a secure, agreed and reliable means of transfer can be put in place academic selection should continue, for the entire intake."

Bishop Donal McKeown, head of a consultative group on Catholic education, attended the meeting of principals.

He said he agreed they should release a statement but denied that he had signed up to it.

Ruane outlines transfer test plan
16 May 08 |  Northern Ireland

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