Alliance Conference 2009: Motion: Post-primary transfer

Motion 2: Transfer to secondary schools

  • Conference reaffirms Alliance’s historic commitment to the abolition of academic selection, which stretches back to the earliest days of the party
  • Conference notes the abolition of the 11-plus, but further notes that the inability of the Executive to produce a replacement system of transfer will create chaos for this year’s Year 6 pupils
  • Conference calls on academic selection, based on the revised curriculum, to continue for two further years, as a short-term measure to give certainty to this year’s Year 5 and Year 6 pupils while a political agreement is reached

Trevor Lunn MLA, while pointing out that Sinn Fein’s education policy position on transfer to secondary schools is “not a mile away” from Alliance’s, said that the real blockage resides at the level of the Northern Ireland Executive, not at the Assembly’s Education Committee.

Lunn said that he believed Committee members Mervyn Storey, John O’Dowd, Dominic Bradley, and perhaps Lunn himself could “sort this out”. Meanwhile, he derided the Ulster Unionists as wanting to turn the clock back to the status quo ante of grammar schools and the 11-plus exam.

He described the current situation as “looking over a cliff”, with no regulation of proposed alternative post-primary testing, with resulting confused parents and headmasters.

While Lunn said that he got on personally well with Education Minister Catriona Ruane, he added that if he hears her say one more time that her policy is “all about the children”, he might well “throw up”, as Lunn blames Ruane and the DUP for the current impasse.

Lunn described the motivation behind the motion as that of seeking consensus beyond the Assembly. Alliance MLAs and councillors contacted school principals, unions, and others in the field of education, to promote the proposed compromise to “avoid the chaos we now face”.

He said that the choice was not between an academic and non-academic system, but between a regulated or an unregulated system.

Lunn claimed that the Transferers’ Council’s recent statement “agreed absolutely” with the Alliance Party’s position, and with other support, Alliance’s view has become the fundamental point of departure for all those who run Northern Ireland’s education system.

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