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Education Minister looks forward to changing times

27 March, 2009 - by Caitríona Ruane

Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has highlighted the opportunities that lie ahead for young people, if we can work together and embrace change.

Speaking at the Ulster Teachers’ Union’s (UTU) annual conference in the Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle, the Minister said: “When I came into office 22 months ago, I had a choice, I could either accept the current system which disadvantages thousands of children, or I could make a change for the better which would benefit the lives and futures of children across our society.

“Now is the time to embrace that change, to be brave and lay the foundations for a new education system which has equality and fairness at its core. We have a unique window of opportunity to secure a system which looks, not towards the institutions and traditions of the past, but one which is modern, fit for purpose and is capable of meeting the needs of all children in our society.

“The new system will build on the individual strengths that every single one of our children possesses whatever that strength or talent is. The singular focus on academic ability must be replaced by a focus on all talents and aptitudes and allow children to pursue either academic or vocational pathways.”

Speaking about Transfer 2010, the Minister said: “Last year’s test was the last 11 plus. It was a system designed 60 years ago and was clearly not fit for the modern world. I have set out the criteria which should be used to transfer children to post-primary education from 2010 and beyond. The department’s Transfer 2010 guidance provides a set of admissions criteria already used widely and promising clarity and, for the first time, fairness. The consultation process for this guidance ends on the 27 April 2009 and I would encourage everyone with an interest in education to respond and make their voices heard.”

The Minister spoke to the delegates about a range of subjects including the establishment of the Education and Skills Authority, the Common Funding Formula, raising standards and the policies within the department.

The Minister said: “My department is currently reviewing and implementing a range of progressive policies. They are interconnected, interdependent and together will revitalise and invigorate our out-dated system. I have progressed the Special Education Review, the Review of Irish-medium education, the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, the establishment of the Education and Skills Authority, the policy to make' Every School A Good School' and changes in how children transfer from primary to post-primary provision.

“While we have much to celebrate, there is still a concerning level of under-achievement. The aim is to protect and enhance the positive, whilst tackling and addressing the negative. If we can do that, if we can agree on the way forward, surely we can build an education system which is a shining example of progression and change.”

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