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Grammar school entrance tests should end says PUP - The Irish News
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News

Grammar school entrance tests should end says PUP

PUP claims current system is failing working class children

ACADEMIC selection is "inherently unfair" and does nothing to help working class children, the Progressive Unionist Party has claimed.

PUP deputy leader Dr John Kyle is today due to launch his party's new strategy for improving educational attainment.

It is hoped the recommendations will help address inequalities in the system, which the party said reinforced poverty and prevented children from achieving their potential.

Up until now, political parties have remained split along sectarian lines on the issue of academic selection - unionists in favour and nationalists against.

While the state transfer test was scrapped seven years ago, grammar schools continue to use unregulated 11-plus style entrance exams.

Dr Kyle said the north now had an education system which was more focused on helping a privileged few at the expense of those living in more disadvantaged communities.

The number of `rich' in grammar schools significantly outnumber those from less-well-off families. Free school meal entitlement is the simplest and most common measure of social disadvantage in schools. Last year, 37.1 per cent of non-grammar pupils were entitled to free meals compared to just 12.1 per cent in the grammar sector.

"At the heart of this system is academic selection, which is inherently unfair and which does nothing to help the majority of working class children to achieve their potential," Dr Kyle said.

"Our strategy proposes an alternative system where academic selection is removed at age 11, creating socially mixed environments within which all children will have the opportunity to flourish.

"If we are to have an education system that is fair for everyone, then it cannot discriminate based on wealth or where someone lives. Even where children from poorer families do pass the selection test for grammar school, many are unable to take up their place due to the expense of uniforms and other items they are expected to buy. Every child has the right to a good standard of education and barriers like these should be removed."

Dr Kyle said the PUP strategy also described an enhanced role for the SureStart programme and health visitors and more effective speech and language outreach work for children.

"There must also be a focus in areas of disadvantage on supporting parents to become involved in the education of children, as well as greater parental and community involvement in schools and influencing how they meet the needs of children. Any approach to addressing educational disadvantage must recognise the role of parents and communities," he added.

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