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Diane Dodds challenged to justify DUP position on 11+

22 November, 2004

Sinn Féin West Belfast MLA Michael Ferguson has challenged Diane Dodds to explain why the DUP back the 11+ and the system of academic selection that is failing her constituents on the Shankill Road.

Mr Ferguson said:

"The fact remains that the people who do worst out of the current 11+ system and the system of academic selection are of protestant working class communities in places like the Shankill.

"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.

"I challenge Diane Dodds to justify her support for a system that fails those from within her community.

"The most common myth peddled by those who support academic rejection at 11 is that it 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.

"We need to end the debate because the 11+ will go. We need to start talking about how we bring in alternatives that can end the branding of 11 year olds as failures and that can provide educational opportunities for all our children that are of the very highest standards." ENDS

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