Letter to the Editor.
DUP has “contradictory stance on Transfer Test challenge” says Ruane.
In the short life of this Assembly, there has been an enormous focus on education.
At a personal level, I welcome debate – even controversy – if it is properly informed and responsibly conducted. But that has rarely been the case.
Some parties seem more fixated on which minister, or which party, is bringing forward a proposal, than on the content and impact of the proposal itself. Breath-taking political summersaults have performed to avoid agreeing with perceived political opponents. For example, the DUP’s public opposition to the 11+ was clearly set out in their 1989 manifesto branding the exam as ‘socially divisive’.
Before I entered the Department of Education, the debate around the 11Plus had dragged on for decades. Decisions needed to be taken and I am very proud that I took those decisions.
The six counties education system was built on a form of academic apartheid which benefited a small academic elite at the expense of the majority of our children.
In the last Assembly elections, Sinn Fein outlined clearly our determination to build on the work initiated by Martin McGuinness as Education Minister in bringing an end to the 11 Plus and the selective system it served. This policy commitment was one element of a comprehensive equality agenda which we put before the people.
For educational, social and moral reasons, academic selection – which in reality was academic rejection for the majority of our children – had to be brought to an end.
For decades ministers appointed from London ran away from making any decision.
Sinn Fein has not. The Transfer test is gone and I am glad that the only place left in our schools for the 11+ is in the history books.
In the next Assembly, in education and across all other policy areas, equality will again be at the core of Sinn Fein’s programme in government.
Is mise le meas,
Caitríona Ruane MLA
South Down Sinn Féin