Page last updated at 16:33 GMT, Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Churches propose transfer at 14

examination paper
The four churches say transfer at 14 should be considered

The four main churches in Northern Ireland have announced a joint plan to help end the 11-plus stalemate.

The Church of Ireland, Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian churches said pupil transfer at 14 instead of 11 years was a "workable proposal".

Education Minister Caitríona Ruane, who is behind controversial plans to end academic tests for primary sevens, said it was a "helpful intervention".

Pupils are preparing to sit the first papers of the final 11-plus on Friday.

However, plans for what happens next year remain unclear, with many unionists opposed to the Sinn Féin education minister's plans.

Rev Ian Ellis of the Church of Ireland, Rev Trevor Gribbon of the Presbyterian Church, Bishop Donal McKeown of the Catholic Church and Trevor Jamieson of the Methodist Church
We ask our politicians, and others, to stand back from established positions
Churches statement
The churchmen said primary school children were becoming "agitated and distressed" as they picked up on adult confusion about what would happen when the 11-plus ends.

"It is clear that there are strong yet unreconciled convictions about the best system of education for the future," the churchmen said in a statement.

"Each viewpoint seems to cancel out the other and, in the absence of consensus, we risk heading to an abyss of unregulated arrangements."

The statement includes a plea to politicians to find the best way forward for all children.

"We ask our politicians, and others, to stand back from established positions and to create the space necessary so that, through dialogue between those with different outlooks, the best way forward may be found for all children," they said.


The 11-plus exam is a selection test for children in primary seven and determines which type of school they transfer to.

A large number of voluntary, controlled and Catholic grammar schools are planning to run independent tests at 11.

It is believed the Department of Education is preparing to reveal new guidelines for oversubscribed schools.

As well as family, community and geographical criteria, it is considering telling schools to accept a quota of children entitled to free school meals.

The department also has a plan to protect the grammar school chances of children in rural areas.

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