Page last updated at 18:25 GMT, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Group tackles selection stalemate

schoolchildren
There is no agreement on how children will move to post-primary education

A working party is to be set up to overcome the current deadlock surrounding academic selection in NI.

The DUP, SDLP, UUP and Alliance Party have met regularly over the last two months and have agreed a set of principles with which to move forward.

Sinn Fein, who were not involved in the talks, said all that was on offer was "a list of maybes and what ifs".

The 11-plus was abolished in 2008, but there has been no agreement on what should replace it.

In a statement, the four parties in agreement called for an official test to be used for a "time limited period".

The SDLP would like that academic selection to be temporary, but the DUP said that agreement to that clause does not mean they foresee an end to academic selection.

In January, the parties will reveal the members of an advisory group who will be asked to find options which most can agree on and which will take into account the differing political opinions.

"While their proposals will not bind any party we hope their guidance will provide us with viable options for consideration in our pursuit of a solution to the unacceptable transfer stalemate," the statement continued.

Sinn Fein's education spokesperson, John O'Dowd, said education had moved on and "it's time for these parties to catch up".

"These discussions were never about education otherwise they would have taken place in the Education Committee," said Mr O'Dowd.

"They were about meeting the needs of those Grammar schools who wish to hold onto their elitist position.

"Transfer 2010 is in place and it is being successfully implemented by the vast majority of post primary schools."



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