Alliance Party and SDLP call for interim CCEA test

Stormont Live managed to squeeze in news of a development in the wrangling over the Northern Ireland Education Minister Caitríona Ruane’s unregulated post-primary transfer system – described by education representatives for the Methodist, Church of Ireland and Presbyterian churches as “a failure in good governance.” In the NI Assembly today the Alliance Party tabled a motion calling on the Education Minister “to re-commission the CCEA test, she abandoned on 2 February 2009, that schools may then use for a maximum of two years; and calls on the Executive to agree new, legally binding guidelines for post primary transfer for use from 2011.” Potential more significant is the SDLP’s amendment – details below the fold. As Mark Devenport observes this “obviously ups the pressure on Sinn Féin”, particularly if the amendment echoes the Catholic Church’s working group’s proposals on post-primary transfer, which are expected this week. The Church has already taken issue with the planned ESA. Update The SDLP’s amendment was defeated but the main motion was agreed. From the NI Assembly debate

[The Minister of Education] “I have heard suggestions that the Catholic Church proposals may contain a request for the Department to recommission the test as an interim measure for a set period of years before academic selection would end after some future debate. Any attempt to construct another test would, in my view, be totally contrary to the principles of social justice to which the Catholic Church is publicly committed.”


Original motion and proposed amendment

Motion – Post Primary Transfer

That this Assembly notes that schools may choose to use an examination as part of their entry criteria under the Minister of Education’s 2010 guidelines; calls on the Minister of Education to re-commission the CCEA test, she abandoned on 2 February 2009, that schools may then use for a maximum of two years; and calls on the Executive to agree new, legally binding guidelines for post primary transfer for use from 2011.

[Mr T Lunn]
[Dr S Farry]

The Speaker has selected the following amendment(s) for debate:

Amendment 1: Leave out all after ‘2010 guidelines’ and insert:

‘; calls on the Minister of Education to ensure the provision of a CCEA test, as she previously proposed, for a maximum period of two years; believes that no school should be allowed to admit its full year 8 pupil quota using the outcomes of that test alone or using any other test; recommends the admission criteria as outlined in the Minister’s statement on ‘Transfer 2010’ on 2 February 2009 and welcomes the first criterion as a means of ensuring that all schools help tackle social deprivation; and further calls on the Minister of Education to set up a new educator-led working group tasked with building a sustainable consensus on non-selective transfer whose recommendations the Executive and the Assembly would use as the basis for legally binding regulations from 2011 at the latest.’

[Mr D Bradley]
[Mrs M Bradley]
[Mr M Durkan]
[Mr D O’Loan]

Update From the NI Assembly record

Dr Farry: …

The consensus that the Alliance Party is trying to achieve is one that is supported across society in Northern Ireland. Our consensus is more widespread, and I do not suggest that there is consensus around the proposals outlined by the Minister. The Catholic Church and the Protestant churches will reflect that later this week.

This is our last chance to take a step back from the brink. I urge the Assembly to use this chance wisely.

Question, That the amendment be made, put and negatived.

Main Question put and agreed to.

Resolved:

That this Assembly notes that schools may choose to use an examination as part of their entry criteria under the Minister of Education’s 2010 guidelines; calls on the Minister of Education to re-commission the CCEA test, she abandoned on 2 February 2009, that schools may then use for a maximum of two years; and calls on the Executive to agree new, legally binding guidelines for post primary transfer for use from 2011.