20 Jun 2008

Voice of children not being heard says NICCY 

NORTHERN Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley, today urged all concerned to end the uncertainty over school transfers.

The Commissioner said parents and pupils have told her of their worries, and the increased stress they are facing – and she said no-one is asking children their views.

“It is an increasingly frustrating situation for everyone,” said Ms Lewsley. “The debate is raging in the media, in columns, and in the Assembly.

“At the same time parents, pupils and teachers are left in a limbo of uncertainty, unable to plan and unable to make informed decisions.

“Hundreds of children are awaiting the outcome of these discussions and no-one is asking the pupils what they think, listening to their ideas and opinions or helping them participate in the process.”

The Commissioner said she had heard directly the views from a range of children and young people, but the Department of Education needs to do the same.

“In 2006 my office told the department our opposition to selection at 11 and urged the department to involve children in the decision making process. I have no evidence that they have done this.

“At the same time I have parents complaining about the agony of waiting for appeals to get into chosen schools, leaving their children anxious over the summer, and making those children feel that they have somehow failed.

“Proposals for a new test or an interim test will not overcome these feelings, will not reduce appeals and will put yet more pressure on parents to enter their child for tests.”

Ms Lewsley continued: “I am not condemning any sector of schooling in Northern Ireland. Grammar schools, secondary schools, integrated schools and independent schools all do a fantastic job, often under trying circumstances.

“What we need now is clarity, resolve and a decision that is in the best interests of children and young people.

“The current system is not providing for all pupils. While I understand as a parent we all want the best for our children, I believe selection of children at 11 does not work.

“I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the minister to reinforce my ongoing concerns.”