Page last updated at 09:39 GMT, Friday, 23 January 2009

Bishop 'understands' exam move

Caitriona Ruane
Caitriona Ruane has called on the DUP to work with her

The head of the commission for Catholic education has said he does not blame schools for working on an entrance exam in the absence of a government test.

Bishop Donal McKeown said he could understand why some Catholic schools had decided to support the move.

A group of Catholic and state grammar schools in Ballymena and Magherafelt are working on a single independent entrance exam.

Catholic bishops have previously stated opposition to independent testing.

The schools in Ballymena and Magherafelt say they will run aptitude tests on 7 November unless an approved government exam can be provided.

Bishop McKeown, who is chairman of the Northern Ireland Commision for Catholic Education, said those in education were "faced with a failure of the political system to deliver a workable way of transferring pupils from primary to post-primary".

"I don't blame schools for working at interim arrangements in the case of there not being a regulated system," he said.

He said schools were "trying to ensure there is some way forward so that pupils don't have to do a whole range of tests".

The Education minister, Caitriona Ruane, has called on the DUP to work with her to reach agreement on replacing academic selection.

She said there was only a "small window" in which agreement could be reached and if it did not happen she would "issue guidance".

Ms Ruane has said she is working to achieve agreement which "could allow schools to apply to use the department's test during a three-year transition period".



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