Page last updated at 20:32 GMT, Monday, 2 February 2009

Ruane reveals transfer guidelines


Education Minister Caitríona Ruane reveals her plan for the transfer of post-primary pupils.

Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has issued guidelines on the transfer of pupils from primary schools from 2010.

Last week, she failed to get the Executive to approve a phasing out of academic selection.

Her new guidelines tell schools they should not use academic selection and list criteria which oversubscribed schools should use to choose pupils.

However, it is understood the guidelines are advisory rather than legally enforceable.

That means schools must take the guidelines into account but they are free to decide not to use them.

Ms Ruane told the assembly: "The time to act has arrived.

In the absence of political agreement I have a duty to act and let parents, children and teachers know how Transfer 2010 will operate
Caitríona Ruane

"Over the past 16 months I have reflected long and hard on the wide range of views put to me.

"On two occasions, the Executive has refused to discuss my proposals for new transfer arrangements.

"Proposals which are based on a position of compromise and are attempts to introduce equality into an outdated education system.

"In the absence of political agreement, I have a duty to act and let parents, children and teachers know how Transfer 2010 will operate."

Ms Ruane said she wants schools, as a top priority, to select a proportion of pupils who are entitled to free school meals.

Traditionally, grammar schools have a low number of pupils in that category.

The list of criteria is similar to that already being used by secondary and primary schools namely attendance at a feeder primary school, living in the parish or in a catchment area, being the eldest child or having a brother or sister at the school.

The minister said she would withdraw orders that the exams body should produce a new test for selection.

She said she hoped grammar schools would choose to stop academic selection. Many grammar schools have said they will run their own admission tests.

Unionist MLAs have challenged the minister on the legal advice she received before issuing the guidelines.

'Nothing new'

SDLP education spokesman Dominic Bradley said Ms Ruane's guidelines would do "little or nothing" to help parents, pupils or teachers.

"There is nothing new in what the minister told the assembly. All she has done is reiterated the current transfer system for non-selective schools," he said.

"They will do nothing to help avoid the totally unregulated system which will simply fill the vacuum she has left."

Ulster Unionists Sir Reg Empey and Michael McGimpsey said Ms Rusane had failed to bring any meaningful proposals before the Executive.

"She has also arbitrarily rejected the frequently expressed view of the Northern Ireland Assembly," they said.

"Now parents, children and teachers across Northern Ireland face the disaster of a chaotic, unregulated transfer system."

Alliance education spokesman Trevor Lunn said the minister's statement offered little clarity.

"The Minister and the DUP have had well over a year and a half to sort this crisis out," he said.

"They have failed to do so and must now take responsibility for this chaos."

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