Post-primary transfer included in NI education review

Post-primary transfer included in NI education review

How children transfer from primary to post-primary schools is to be part of a review of Northern Ireland’s education system.

The review will also consider what a “single education system” would involve.

An independent review of education was promised as part of the New Decade New Approach (NDNA) deal.

The executive has now agreed the terms of reference for the review, which will be carried out by a five-person panel.

However, the panel is yet to be appointed and the review is not expected to begin until May 2021.

The NDNA deal said the way education is run in Northern Ireland – with a range of sectors and school types – was “not sustainable” and promised a “fundamental review” as a basis for change.

The review is to consider pre-school, primary, post-primary and special education as well as youth services.

According to the just-published terms of reference, it will have three strands.

These include a child’s “journey” through education, how schools are run and funded and how Northern Ireland’s education system operates.

Although academic selection is not specifically mentioned in the terms of reference, the review is to consider “the transition and transfer of children from primary to post-primary”.

The 2021 transfer tests used by many grammar schools to select pupils are due to begin in early January.

The review will examine how much duplication and segregation is involved in education in Northern Ireland and what this costs.

It will also define what a “single education system” would mean, and look at how this could operate in practice.

A DUP assembly member on Stormont’s Education Committee, Maurice Bradley, recently said that all schools in Northern Ireland should be integrated.

Support for children with special educational needs, which has been the subject of a number of critical reports in recent years, is another area the review panel will be asked to consider.

The review is wide ranging and expected to cost about £270,000.

The panel is expected to take 18 months to deliver a final report.

The report will “set out a clear vision of what high quality and innovative education in Northern Ireland should look like in the 21st century, the outcomes it should deliver and the appropriate indicators of success – detailing the key actions required to make this vision a reality”.

However, it will be up to a future executive to decide which, if any, of its recommendations should be implemented.

Education Minister Peter Weir said that the review should be approached “with open minds”.

He said: “It will be based on evidence; learn from best practice locally and elsewhere; and, be informed by the voice of stakeholders including children and young people.”

The review has been welcomed by the Alliance Party’s education spokesperson, Chris Lyttle, who said it was needed to see whether Northern Ireland’s education system was “fit for purpose”.

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