The Sinn Féin Education spokesman, Barry McElduff, praises it as “visionary” – although the chairman of the Assembly’s Education Committee, Sammy Wilson, was quoted on Talkback as calling it a “plateful of platitudes with a spoonful of substance”. The Northern Ireland Education Minister, Sinn Féin’s Caitríona Ruane, has made a statement in the Assembly – available for now at the SF website – outlining the future for post-primary education – “Next year will be the last year of the 11-plus. There will be no 11-plus in 2009.” – BBC report here Adds The Executive website catches up. And Mark Devenport notes some of the reaction in the Assembly. Update Additional BBC reportFrom the ministerial statement
“In my vision, young people will enjoy equal access to their post-14 educational pathway in a number of ways – as determined by the planning of education in their local areas. The options include:
Access within an 11-19 school
Transfer to an alternative 11-19 school
Access through an 11-19 school or a post 14 school which offers the Entitlement Framework in collaboration with other schools or in a learning community.
A local area may offer general provision in 11-14 schools, followed by specialism and diversity in 14 plus provision.
“An academic pathway will remain, accessed by intelligent, well-informed and mature election and available through modern organisational flexibility.”
“Following a period of consultation, I intend to bring forward regulations governing the operation of post-primary transfer for 2010, and for the subsequent interim period before the implementation of a 14+ system of election.
“There will be no 11+ Transfer Test in the 2009/10 school year.
“Pupils transferring to post-primary school in September 2010 will do so overwhelmingly on the basis of their preferences for schools – in much the same way that they choose their primary schools and pre-schools now. From 2010 the criteria will include:
Community, Geographical and Family criteria
“Many grammar schools have been admitting a wide ability range for some years now and will receive all their pupils in September 2010 without regard to academic assessment.
“Some grammar schools may need some time and assistance to adjust to the new system outlined today. In my forthcoming discussions with them I hope to be able to reach an agreed way forward to facilitate the transition.
“I would hope that all grammar schools would see a positive future for academic education in my vision for education. If any school, however, chooses to operate independent admissions arrangements that lie outside the new system of transfer, I want to make it clear that there is no obligation on my department to assist with funding.”
Update The Education minister has apparently clarified that the reference to “no obligation on my department to assist with funding” relates to the funding of any alternative selection procedure – such as the alternative proposed here.
More From the additional BBC report
Ms Ruane declined to give a straight answer when asked whether the new system would be subject to such a cross-community vote.
Some Ulster Unionists have expressed concern that by using “regulations” rather than a new law, the minister might avoid a cross-community vote.
But, DUP sources have told the BBC that because passing new regulations will require what is known as a “negative resolution” of the assembly, the plan can still be forced to a vote.
Sinn Fein sources acknowledge this, but counter that the 11-plus is gone and will not be coming back.
If the DUP tries to reintroduce academic selection to any new transfer criteria, Sinn Fein said nationalists would be able to use cross-community voting to stop such a move in its tracks.