'Pupils by postcode' slammed

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The Independent Online

THE Ulster Unionist party today rejected radical new plans for Northern Ireland's education system, saying they fail to tackle the problem of finding a reasonable and fair way of allocating pupils to schools.

Danny Kennedy, UUP education spokesperson and former chairman of the Assembly's education committee, also claimed that some young people will be "trapped by their postcode" as a result of proposals contained in the recently launched Costello Report.

The controversial report, which has received the backing of Education Minister Jane Kennedy, include that the last 11-plus test will take place in 2008 and that academic selection will be banned as a method of choosing pupils for grammar schools.

Mr Kennedy spoke out following a recent meeting with the Minister, which was also attended by his Assembly member colleague Ken Robinson.

"In the best interests of the young people of Northern Ireland, and their parents, the UUP rejects the Costello Report," Mr Kennedy said.

"The report ignores the fact that Northern Ireland schools have outperformed the rest of the UK in terms of GCSE and A-Level results ever since comprehensives became the dominant school-type in Great Britain.

"The report's only attempt at addressing the under-achievement of a minority of pupils is to fatally undermine a part of the system that is evidently working well - the grammar schools.

"The proposals will limit parent's real choices and will inevitably start a drift towards a comprehensive system in Northern Ireland.

"It is grossly unfair to deal with the problem of over-subscription in popular schools by geography, ensuring that those pupils trapped by their postcode have no opportunity to attend the school that best suits their aptitude and ability."

Mr Robinson said: "The report fails to bring forward any reasonable and fair way of allocating pupils to schools.

"The Ulster Unionist Party strongly supports the principle of informed parental choice and believes that the Pupil Profiles must be available for use by the receiving school.

"The Household Survey confirms that parents overwhelmingly support some form of academic selection."

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