Published Thursday, 21 June 2012
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The Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland attended a conference on Thursday at St Genevieve's High School in Belfast to present their recommendations on the future of Catholic grammar schools.
Present at the conference were Bishop John McAreavey, Bishop Donal McKeown (Chairman of NICCE), Bishop Gerard Clifford, Bishop Noel Treanor, Monsignor Eamon Martin and Gerry Lundy (CEO of Catholic Commission for Maintained Schools).
They read a statement endorsed by all senior members of the Catholic Church in Northern Ireland.
It stated: "Many share our conviction that transfer to post-primary education by academic selection, known popularly as the '11-plus', is failing our young people and their parents. It can seriously distort the focus of learning and teaching for children in Primary Six and Seven."
It artificially divides children into two distinct school groups, even though all schools must offer their pupils access to the same curriculum entitlement. Further, it has a disproportionate and unacceptable impact on the educational opportunities of the most socially disadvantaged.
Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland
They said that international research indicates that transfer test style selection at a young age "tends to have a detrimental effect on the overall educational achievement of children in a country".
The Bishops called on the Assembly to urgently agree on a "better system of transfer" to post-primary schools.
"For our part, as those with responsibility for the general planning and regulation of Catholic education, we also call on all involved in Catholic Schools to urgently engage with each other and those in the wider educational community to begin a phased transition away from this practice," they stated.
They said they supported all parents who want academic excellence for their children and said that moving away from academic selection "improves the opportunity to achieve this".
"A phased transition away from academic selection will however, require all Catholic schools working together to ensure the best possible opportunities for children and the best possible use of educational resources in a given area.
"To assist this transition and to facilitate schools working together to achieve better outcomes for children and parents, we restate our support today for the policy of the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE)."
They recommend that all Catholic trustees should endorse a phased transition away from the use of academic selection and that boards of governors should engage with Catholic schools to discuss how to move to "non-selective arrangements".
They want Catholic grammar schools to operate a policy of admitting no more than 75% of pupils on the basis of academic selection no later than September 2014.
The Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE) will commission an independent evaluation of the impact and progress of the changes proposed by the Catholic Bishops.