Depends on your definition of ‘all’

Some months ago, our esteemed devolved minister for education, continuing a trend started by of her esteemed party colleague and predecessor, announced that the 11+ was to go.

This was, in my humble opinion, a fucking stupid idea.

Worse was the fact that the transfer test was abolished with absolutely no idea what was to follow it, except that it wouldn’t be a transfer test.

So imagine my surprise when I read her latest ideas.

Children’s post-primary education in Northern Ireland will depend on the area they live in.

A central group and five area groups are being set up to bring forward proposals on the future of education after the end of the 11-plus this year.

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane outlined the proposals in the assembly on Tuesday.

She insisted that she will not be rushed in the decision process, which she claims “is not a shotgun wedding”.

The final 11-plus exam will take place this year, and the education minister has been under pressure to announce what will replace it.

Ms Ruane said she has still kept all post-primary options open, the possibilty of transfer at 11 or at 14 “will be different depending on where you live”.

I can’t imagine any other way to say this, so I’ll just blurt it out.

The minister is fucking lying.

By stating months ago, and not changing, her stated opposition to academic testing being a deciding factor in school selection, she has ruled out a large swathe of post primary options. In fact, she’s pretty much ruled out the only post primary option that has not been proven to be worse than all others. All the rest is window dressing.

And what window dressing!

A set of weak, separate consultative bodies, all of which will pull their own ways. Which will, unfortunately require a lot of horse trading at the regional level. Perhaps done by the Minister of Education, do you think? How coincidental.

And all starting from April 2009? How wonderful! Bearing in mind that not one single department has been able to institute any change on schedule, I can’t help but think that this is a rather large risk. Not least for the 16,000 pupils who’ll be changing school with no idea of how they’ll be doing it…

Yes, I know there are lots of people who disagree with me on the 11+, but there are still three facts that need remembering. A majority favour selection in some form; and more of NIrish poor folk go to uni than those elsewhere; and we do better in GCSEs than elsewhere. Which is all partly down to access to our best schools being open to all on the basis of ability, rather than postcode or cash assets.

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