When Tony Blair was standing for election he famously said that his three main priorities would be education, education and education. Thankfully none of the party leaders made such a commitment in Northern Ireland. Education and the future arrangements for academic selection caused ill tempered exchanges in the Assembly Chamber and considerable press comment this week – but we remain nowhere near a resolution.
The Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane, wrote to Lumen Christi, the Catholic grammar school which announced its intention to set its own entrance exam, and its feeder schools to warn them of the consequences of essentially ‘opting out’ of Department endorsed transfer arrangements. The pro grammar school lobby, the Association for Quality Education has announced that 31 grammar schools are to press ahead with forming a company to run their own common entrance exam. It is understood the new company may outsource the test from England or develop a new exam based on the Northern Ireland curriculum. It will finalise firm plans for the new test by June. The exam will be taken for the first time in 2010 if no alternative selection method is proposed by the government in the interim.
Ms Ruane was also under attack from primary school teachers for failing to narrow the funding gap between primary schools and post primary schools.