Review of Post-Primary Education

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 14 October 2002.

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Photo of Gerry McHugh Gerry McHugh Sinn Féin 2:45, 14 October 2002

8. asked the Minister of Education to outline the next steps he intends to take in his review of post-primary education.

(AQO 318/02)

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

In last week’s statement, I said that building consensus remains the best way by which to make progress and that the considerable consensus demonstrated by the responses to the consultation provides a sound platform from which to move the review forward. I also outlined my plans to meet key stakeholders in education to listen to their views on responses to the consultation and on how best to make progress on the post-primary review before announcing proposals for the next steps in December. I am determined that the overwhelming demand for abolition of the transfer test shall not be thwarted by the suspension of the Assembly, and I announced on Friday that the last transfer test will be held in November 2004. The Department of Education will meet the key stakeholders as part of the process of developing new arrangements that are fair and that will enable all children to reach their full potential regardless of their background or circumstances.

Photo of Gerry McHugh Gerry McHugh Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. I welcome the Minister’s answer and, in particular, the move on the 11-plus. Many teachers and parents have already been in touch to express their delight that this flawed and divisive test is truly on its way out. Does the Minister believe that to suspend the institutions at a time when the education system is planning such fundamental change is nothing short of political vandalism?

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

As a Minister in an Executive that has only a few hours to run, I am saddened and disappointed that the institutions established under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement are to be suspended from midnight tonight — [Interruption].

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

On and off over the course of the past three years, I have worked happily with my Unionist and SDLP Colleagues in the Executive. All of us, including the DUP Ministers, have done good work on behalf of the people. I was struck by John Reid’s press conference this morning and the Ministers who were lined up beside him in front of the television cameras. They are probably all good and decent people, but none of them is from here. They do not know the communities, the geography and our problems as we know them. Of course, they will be overloaded by several portfolios.

The suspension of the institutions will be detrimental to our economy and to our health and education systems. I am saddened by that. Whatever happens, there will be a huge responsibility on all of us — not least on the two Prime Ministers, Mr Ahern and Mr Blair — to ensure that we get the institutions back up again in the interests of the future of our people.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson DUP 3:00, 14 October 2002

Including your spy ring.[Interruption].

You nearly lost your seat there.