Ruane Criticised Over 'Actionable' Advice

The North's Minister for Education and the Stormont Department of Education have been criticised for advising schools to follow guidance on selection which may leave them open to legal challenge.

The Governing Bodies Association has received legal advice on the Transfer 2010 policy. The association represents 52 voluntary grammar schools across NI.

It is understood school authorities across the sectors are angry they were not warned of the possible legal pitfalls of ending academic selection at 11 years-of-age.

They said this is what the Stormont Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane, strongly advised them to do despite it being the case that any significant change to a school's policy requires a formal development proposal.

It has now emerged that dropping academic selection requires such a proposal.

SDLP Education spokesperson Dominic Bradley (pictured) has expressed his dismay that transfer guidelines Minister of Education Caitriona Ruane has given schools in Transfer 2010 are flawed and could expose them to legal action.

Commenting on the revelation that schools changing from selective to non-selective status legally need a formal development proposal - a fact ignored in the Minister's advice - Mr Bradley said: "This is not a question of schools putting obstacles in the way of change.

"If anything it is a question of the Minister putting schools at risk through a hastily cobbled together measure which does not meet the needs of schools.

"Schools are right to ensure that they are on solid legal ground before they act - what a pity the Minister hadn't taken the same care.

"We strongly support getting rid of selection, which is educationally unsound and socially unjust, but common sense suggests it is indeed a very significant change of policy for a school.

"The Minister is clearly wrong to dismiss this problem as a red herring, since everything she has done and said underlines the significance of such a change," he continued.

"She is also wrong when she says her Department will decide whether a change of school policy is significant, since it could be the courts that decide.

"If there is no legal problem here, why is she suddenly, three years down the road, offering to rush through formal development proposals for any school that wants them?

"It really is incredible that she did not see this one coming. I put a question to the Minister two weeks ago asking whether schools needed development proposals but I have still not got an answer," he revealed. "Caitríona Ruane is in a deep hole and digging furiously.

"She has 'lorded over' one mess after another in education and actively alienated not only the middle ground, but many who support all-ability schools.

"Her confrontational approach is now the biggest single obstacle to getting rid of academic selection," he fumed.


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