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Gildernew - Education Minster must commit to 2004 as final 11+ exam date

7 November, 2003

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew speaking as children prepare to sit the 11+ transfer test has said that Jane Kennedy's failure to commit to 2004 as the final exam date is creating uncertainty and confusion.

Ms Gildernew said:

"The uncertainty created by Jane Kennedy's handling of the 11+ has been bad for parents and children and led to uncertainty in the different education sectors. By refusing to confirm that children in 2004 will be the last to sit the 11+ Jane Kennedy has created the space to allow those who support academic rejection of children at 11 the space to peddle their myths and lies.

"The most common myth peddled those who support academic rejection at 11 is that academic selection provides a ladder to success for working class and disadvantaged children. But the truth is that the removal of academic selection will not deprive bright, disadvantaged pupils of the opportunity of a first-rate education. Only 8% of pupils in grammar schools come from low-income families.

"Transfer test results show that the children from privileged backgrounds are 4 times more likely to achieve a grade A in the 11+ than the most disadvantaged of our children. Hardly making a good case for academic selection.

"The worst results in the 11+ are in state schools with high levels of free school meals in working class Protestant areas - in the Shankill less than 2% of pupils achieved a grammar school place. That is a damning statistic. The system is not helping the working class and it is certainly not helping children from working class Protestant families. Those who support academic rejection from unionist parties must ask themselves why they support a system that fails children most in need from within their own community." ENDS

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