24 March 2006

Ulster schools reforms 'will go ahead'

Belfast Telegraph

By Kathryn Torney
24 March 2006

Until politicians are willing to share power, the Department of Education will continue to press ahead with its plans to scrap academic selection, it was confirmed today.

That was the hard-hitting response from the Government to a call from UUP education spokesman David McNarry for controversial education reforms to be put on hold until the Assembly is recalled.

Consultation on the Draft Order, which includes a ban on academic selection in schools, ended this month.

Mr McNarry said: "What is the connection between an Education Minister scheduled to introduce the Government's Education Draft Order and the recent remarks of the Secretary of State talking up an enabling approach for the Assembly to be recalled to debate important issues including the proposals contained in the Education Order?

"It remains to be seen how the Education Minister will respond to the certain rejection of her proposals and when she will publicly release the reactions to the consultation document."

He said Mr Hain had suggested that, should political talks yield sufficient agreement, the Assembly could be recalled, and that would put at risk the reforms.

However, when contacted by the Belfast Telegraph, a spokeswoman for the Department said: "The Draft Education Order will be laid before Parliament by June 2006 so that by the start of the new school year in September 2006 children will benefit from the curriculum changes.

"The Secretary of State has made it clear that he would prefer local politicians to be taking forward these reforms, but until they are willing to share power then the ministerial team will press on with their reform agenda."

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