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23 May 2002 Edition

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A better future for all our children - Ending the 11+

Sinn Féin national chairperson McLaughlin has welcomed the commencement of the household consultation on the Burns Report. He was speaking at the launch of a Sinn Féin information leaflet on the Department of Education Household Survey on Wednesday as the first of some 670,000 questionnaires were landing on people's doorsteps. "Sinn Féin is encouraging everyone to get involved in this consultation. It is vital that people make their views known to the Department and play their part in shaping the educational system for our children," said McLaughlin.

"For our part Sinn Féin is convinced that the current situation is not working for all our children. Academic selection is academic rejection for the majority of children. We must put our children first, rather than putting them forward as failures at eleven years old.

"Furthermore, only 8 percent of children who attend grammar schools come from disadvantaged areas, so there is clear evidence that academic selection is not playing any positive role in tackling educational disadvantage. Instead, it is reinforcing disadvantage and social division.

"If people are unhappy with the system as it stands, in which 65 percent of our children are branded as failures at the age of eleven, this consultation enables them to register their views and play their part in building an education system that values all our children equally."

"Today, we are paying a high price for our system of maintaining academic selection at eleven. It has produced a two-tier education system and resulted in one of the widest gaps in the world between high and low achievers.

"The current system has had many successes and our schools do a magnificent job in spite of great odds, but there is also a long tale of underachievement.

"It is very simple: We need a quality education system for all our children. The current system tells 65% of our eleven-year-olds every year that they are second best. 19% of our pupils leave school with little or no formal qualification and 24% of adults are functionally illiterate.

"But it does not have to be this way. We need a better future for all of our children. We need to end academic selection and establish schools where all children can be educated together and develop at their own pace.

Education Spokesperson Gerry McHugh added that


Young people who are alienated from school - who have been branded a failure at eleven, are more likely:

To need expensive remedial education and extra support;

To leave school early with little or no formal qualification;

To find it difficult to get a job or take part in the life of their community;

To smoke, and drink excessively;

To develop ill-health including depression and;

To find themselves in trouble with the courts for anti-social activities.


"Sinn Féin has serious concerns about the use of personal profiles and the suggested collegiate system but the 11+ has to go," said McHugh.

"We want to see schools that are based on:


"All-ability schools: Where all children are educated together at similar schools, regardless of academic ability;

Working together: Local Primary and Post-primary schools to form voluntary partnerships to ease the transition from one to the other.

Learning Neighbourhoods: Local schools (Primary and post-primary) working closely with the community they serve - parents, community groups, local businesses and third level (FHE, University) institutions.

Parental choice: Parents and children can opt for controlled, maintained, integrated, Irish medium, etc.

Targeting resources: Partnerships must be supported by funding with a special focus on Early Years education and Targeting Social Need.

A broad curriculum: All children to study a common curriculum including a balance of academic, technical and vocational elements, learning skills, personal and social development."
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