The Alliance Party has reaffirmed its opposition to the 11-Plus examinations, as well as any form of academic selection used to segregate children in Northern Ireland at the age of eleven. The Party’s position on the Burns Report was outlined in a meeting last night with acting Minister Jane Kennedy MP.
Alliance education spokeswoman, Councillor Naomi Long, welcomed the Minister’s handling of the question of pupil reform. She said, “There is no denying the consensus that the 11-Plus exam is unfair, unjust, and must go. The question now is not if, but when and how. Alliance welcomes the opportunity to continue contributing to long overdue education reform in Northern Ireland.”
Furthermore, the Alliance delegation was pleased to learn the Minister’s recognition that many other groups are declaring that the time for a pupil to begin to choose his or her educational future should be later, at age 14.
Meanwhile, Eileen Bell MLA is encouraged by the Minister’s recognition that any replacement mechanism for education transfer will require a broad consensus from community stakeholders.
Mrs Bell said, “I am optimistic that we will successfully bring about honest education reform in Northern Ireland. We are convinced that the Minister and her team are working hard to ensure that this process is kept alive, and we look forward to agreeing a procedure to deliver the changes that all parents and children here deserve. For too long, Northern Ireland has not treated its children equally, and we are pleased that the Minister appreciates the urgent need for reform.”
Alliance Party Leader, David Ford MLA, raised the issue of segregated nursery provision. He said, “I told the Minister of my very real concerns of the equality of provision for nursery-age children in Portglenone. There would appear to be serious issues that need to be addressed in regards to not favouring any section of the community. I am assured that Jane Kennedy will be following this matter up in her investigation of this matter.”
Councillor Long also took the opportunity to present a pile of petition forms signed in support of the ‘lollipop’ men and women who ensure the safety of thousands of schoolchildren throughout the province.