30 Apr 2009

Lewsley says pupils need certainty now

THE Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley, today called on the Education Minister and Executive to do all in their power to end the confusion over school transfers.

The Commissioner was responding to the Department of Education's consultation on the ‘Transfer 2010’ guidance.

“My job is to promote and safeguard the rights and best interests of children and young people,” said Ms Lewsley. “The current confusion is not in the best interests of pupils.

“I have listened to parents. I have listened to children and young people. I have asked the Minister to directly listen to pupils. Today I am responding to the Minister’s consultation.

“While I welcome the Minister's commitment to end academic selection, the consultation on her proposals has raised more questions,” said Ms Lewsley.

“When the final Transfer 2010 Guidance is finally in place I will monitor, and review it if necessary, to make sure that children’s best interests are to the fore.

“However, right now I am deeply concerned that the Education Minister and the Executive are not in a position to provide authoritative information on the process by which current Primary Six children will be transferred to post-primary schools.”

The Commissioner said the 'Transfer 2010' guidance provides little clarity on how the process will happen in reality.

“The priority needs to be the pupils. The process should be there to support them. They need to be able to move with confidence and certainty when they choose their new school for the beginning of September 2010. They are entitled to certainty, and soon.

“Some children may end up sitting several different entrance tests, or may find themselves being unfairly discriminated against through the selection criteria set by some schools. This is extremely distressing for children and their parents.

“I visit schools almost every week, so I know the fantastic job all the grammar, secondary, integrated and independent schools do; often under trying circumstances.

“Therefore I would urge all those schools involved to work together to find a way to free our children from having to sit these tests, in schools and environments that are not familiar to them.

“I have talked to teachers of special needs children who tell me this will be particularly traumatic especially for those children affected by conditions such as autistic spectrum disorder or dyslexia.

“In the longer term, we must work towards ensuring that every school is the best it can be so that children experience a high quality education irrespective of the post-primary school they attend. They deserve nothing less.” added Ms Lewsley.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

The job of the Commissioner for Children and Young People, as established by the NI Assembly, is to promote and safeguard the rights and best interests of children and young people.

NICCY’s Response to the Transfer 2010 Consultation can be found  here.

For more information contact:

MEDIA ENQUIRIES For more information please contact Andrew McGall, Communication Officer at NICCY on 028 9031 1616 or   communications@niccy.org