Belfast Telegraph

Parents could replace 11-plus
Families better judges, insists Minister

By Claire Regan
28 January 2005

Ministers today side-stepped the growing controversy on a replacement for the 11-plus by putting new admission arrangements out to public consultation.

Education Minister Barry Gardiner this morning published a document inviting comments on new admission criteria for post-primary schools which could be used after 2008 when the much-hated existing Transfer Test will be abolished.

Launching the document this morning, Mr Gardiner made it clear that informed parental choice will go ahead as the main way in which children will be filtered through from primary school.

Despite this definite decision, based on recommendations of the Costello report, the Department has prolonged the long-running drama over the future of transfer arrangements by putting the issue out to public consultation until June.

The document is certain to infuriate grammar schools as well as the DUP and UUP, who have campaigned vigorously for secondary schools to continue to be able to select their pupils on the basis of academic ability.

In a household survey in 2002, 64% of respondents also agreed that academic selection should stay.

Making the announcement this morning, Mr Gardiner said: "School admissions arrangements should work for the benefit of children. Based on the principle of informed parental choice, the arrangements should be as simple as possible for parents to use.

"They should help parents make the best decisions about the most appropriate school for their child.

"The consultation paper is being published at this early date because parents need to understand the likely changes and be able to plan well ahead for their children's future.

"From September 2010 therefore, pupils will transfer to post-primary schools on the basis of informed parental choice."

The consultation document seeks comment on the overall processes which could be put in place. It describes the arrangements for giving information to parents, including the Pupil Profile.

"Parents know their children best and it is both right and responsible to take the key decisions about their children's schooling," the minister added.

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