“The minister believes she can build a consensus of support for her proposals..”

Ken Reid’s UTV News report below contains some scenes from the confrontation at the Assembly’s Education Committee meeting, as commented on by Mick here, but beyond that confrontation there is a declaration from the Education minister, Sinn Féin’s Caitriona Ruane, that she will not be proposing the ‘Craigavon model’ because it includes academic selection at 14. The Minister also declares that her proposals do not include any selection at any age. Which may be noteworthy for the Finance minister.. and not just for any suggested cost-neutralness. The Belfast Telegraph’s Education Correspondent, Kathryn Torney, gives an eye-witness report. And in related news, the Belfast Telegraph also reports that the UUP’s Basil McCrea has said that if the Minister does not disclose information on her confidential meetings about plans to replace the 11-plus with a system of transfer at the age of 14, or does not agree to meet the Committee in private session, then he “will press for a vote of no confidence to be taken by the Assembly and would hope to obtain the committee’s support for this.”

It’s also worth noting that the confrontation was almost guaranteed by build-up to the meeting, as described by Committee Chair, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson.

After her statement to the Assembly on December 11 2007 there was even greater confusion on the issue.

The committee posed 30 questions to her for clarification but no answers came.

We requested a meeting and eventually, through the intervention of the two Sinn Fein members of the committee, were granted a one hour meeting.

All members had hoped for a constructive engagement instead we got a farce which left everyone apart from the Sinn Fein members fuming.

The members were given a paper at the start of the meeting with her responses to the questions posed to her, leaving them no time to study it.

Those question, set by the Committee for the minister to answer, had initially been responded to with a “not possible” from the minister.

Meanwhile, as reported here..

A spokesman for the Minister said: “As the Minister has made clear – the last Transfer Test will take place in 2008. That is irreversible.

“In terms of the full range of the proposals for the future of post-primary education outlined, there will be a legislative basis for these proposals as appropriate (the Minister stated her intention, for instance, to bring forward admissions criteria regulations).

“This legislative basis will, of course, be established by proper consultative and legislative procedures.”

He added: “The minister believes she can build a consensus of support for her proposals and we are working to achieve that.”