[Sinn Fein]

22nd May 2002

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

Speaking at the launch of a Sinn Fein information leaflet on the Department of Education Household Survey, party Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said:

``Today, we are paying a high price for our system of maintaining academic selection at 11. 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 tail of underachievement.

``It is very simple: We need a quality education system for ALL our children. The current system tells 65% of our 11 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 MLA added:

``Young people who are alienated from school - who have been branded a failure at 11 are more likely:

``Sinn Fein has serious concerns about the use of personal profiles and the suggested collegiate system but the 11+ has to go.

``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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