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Specialist schools help education reform - Ruane

12 June, 2008

Sinn Féin Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has told post-primary principals that specialist schools can help deliver important education reforms.

The minister was speaking at a conference organised by the Regional Training Unit (RTU) to celebrate the success of specialist schools to date and encourage the sharing of good practice between schools.

The minister said:

"This conference is a good opportunity for specialist schools to demonstrate the value they add to the education of our young people. Important links across and between schools have been forged to enable good practice to be shared. This co-operation benefits schools, pupils and the wider community.

"Promoting Equality and Inclusion is an appropriate theme for today's event. These are vital issues that are at the heart of my work. We need to ensure that all our children and young people are respected and given every opportunity to succeed in their school years. To help this we must have in place the flexibility for them to choose the courses to meet their needs and aspirations. This flexibility will come through the Entitlement Framework, which will increase educational opportunities for pupils while encouraging increased co-operation between schools.

"The development of Learning Communities is fundamental to my plans for area-based planning and we already have solid examples of the benefits they bring to young people. Specialist schools can flourish in learning communities as they will already have developed relationships with other schools.

"One of my key proposals involves new arrangements to allow our children to transfer from primary to post-primary schools without having to endure a divisive selection test. I recognise that some schools may need time to adjust to this new situation and I have proposed a three year transition, after which post-primary schools will only admit pupils using non-selective criteria. I believe this will increase the range of educational opportunities for all our young people and will encourage schools to co-operate together.

"Over coming months and years we will need to work together to enable the smooth implementation of my progressive reform programmes. I believe that there are more areas of agreement than disagreement and if we keep the interests of children and young people as our priority we can build an education system to be proud of." ENDS

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