Ten years after the Good Friday Agreement a Sinn Fein Minister has delivered the ultimate act of educational segregation and division with the effective creation of a Catholic 11plus and a Protestant 11plus.
The BBC reports that The Commission for Catholic Education has given the go-ahead for Catholic grammar schools in Northern Ireland to set entrance exams.
However, it has also restated its position that academic selection of any kind should end by 2012.
Some Catholic grammar schools have said they will set entrance exams in the absence of an official test. The commission said that in the absence of a regulated system of transfer, academic test may be appropriate in the short-term, particularly for those post-primary schools which are oversubscribed.
NICCE chairman Bishop Donal McKeown said: “This is a clear statement from the Catholic trustees that academic selection at age 11 has no place in a modern education system.”
The commission stressed that Catholic schools which opt to use the tests must ensure they do not discriminate against any child, avoid a multiplicity of tests and should be used for only a limited period of time.
The church has been trying to keep the support of Catholic parents who want their children to go to a grammar school but who could choose to leave the sector and apply for non-denominational grammar schools instead.
Today’s decision is an honest act on behalf of the Catholic Commission to show some leadership on this issue. It will however do nothing to prevent the inevitable chaos which will now ensue. It is a dark day for politics and a total indictment of Caitriona Ruane’s stewardship as Education Minister.