Eileen Bell, Alliance Deputy Leader, has welcomed the announcement by Jane Kennedy, Minister of Education, that a working party is being set up to consider the future position of Post-Primary Education.
Mrs Bell, who is Assembly Education Spokesperson, said: “I must express concern, however, that the composition of the working group must not be allowed to lead to a continuation of the sectarian debate pro- and anti- grammar schools.
“The group must keep to the proposed timetable so that children currently in Primary 4 can look forward to benefiting from the new regime, whatever that may be.
“I am also worried that the special needs sector is not represented on the group, and I trust that their needs will be fully taken into account in the group’s deliberations.
“Representation of the integrated sector is to be welcomed, as it will help to counteract the sectarian approach which a lot of other sectors take to many problems, and has much to teach the wider education community on the basis of its own experiences.”
Alliance Party Education Spokesperson and East Belfast Councillor Naomi Long also welcomed the setting up of the new group and hoped that it would help end uncertainty over future arrangements.
Cllr Long said: “Whether you oppose or support an end to the 11-plus, most parents will be relieved that the drift and uncertainty over future arrangements may be about to be brought to an end. When it was announced that the 11-plus was to be scrapped many people were justifiably concerned that no replacement had been identified. Many pupils and parents have faced the stress of not knowing what type of educational arrangements await them.
“Hopefully this working group will bring forward positive proposals for change. Alliance has already put forward radical and detailed recommendations and we are committed to working with this new group to ensure that any replacement will help improve educational achievement for all, whether through academic or vocational routes or a combination of the two.
“As a party that believes that the current system cannot deliver these objectives, we are nevertheless disappointed that it has been announced that those pupils currently in P5 and P6 will have to take the current transfer tests. I hope that rapid progress will be made to ensure that a good replacement is implemented sooner rather than later.”