February saw the delivery of the first results from unregulated transfer tests which had taken the place of the eleven-plus, scrapped by the Department of Education in an attempt to end academic selection.
Widespread legal action was expected from dissatisfied parents, but time passed and only two court cases were proposed against grammar schools which had refused entry to pupils. One of those was rejected and the second family decided not to proceed.
And who had been stoking those expectations of widespread legal action? The Northern Ireland Education Minister, Sinn Féin’s Cáitríona Ruane, for one. As this BBC report from November 2009 notes
Education Minister Caitriona Ruane of Sinn Fein, told BBC News Online: “These tests are being run and organised by breakaway grammar schools.
“They are leaving themselves wide open to legal cases against them. I have written, and my officials have written, advising them of the dangers.”
Aided and abetted, natch, by some trade union officials
Teachers’ unions have confirmed that the grammars, both state and Catholic, may end up in the courts if they turn down children on the basis of them not having sat the selection tests. “I don’t think there is any doubt that there will be legal challenges facing the grammars when the decisions are taken on who gets in early next year,” says Frank Bunting, northern secretary of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (Into). Bunting, whose union has 6,500 members in Northern Ireland, says the challenges are likely to come in areas where the education minister’s party, Sinn Féin, is strongest.
As I’ve said, the education system is clearly in the very safest of hands…
Still, with an enthusiastic Executive and some new year resolutions… Minister?