O’Dowd praises the Catholic Principals Association for their vision and commitment to changing education

Date published: 04 March 2016


Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has praised the Catholic Principals Association for their vision and commitment to changing education.

John O'Dowd MLA

Speaking at their annual conference in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast, the Minister said:

“I want you to be proud of yourselves for the work that you do. You have the courage of your convictions and as well as that you have a vision and want to see change and are prepared to see that through.

“Collectively a lot of progress has been made to create a fairer and equal education system for all of our children and young people. And a lot of people at this conference today have created change to assist all young people to reach their full potential and many young people have benefitted as a result.”

Commenting on academic selection, the Minister said:

“I remain committed to raising standards in all schools and improving the life chances of every child. To raise standards we need to remove the inequalities within the system, the most damaging being academic selection.

“Academic selection is the single biggest factor holding back our education system with unregulated transfer tests in place now for seven years. That is seven years of making some children feel like failures and seven years of schools perpetuating the myth that the curriculum is somehow better in some schools than others. An increasing number of grammar schools are accepting a broader range of grades/scores, and in some instances, schools are already mixed ability in everything but name.

“Social change comes about as a result of a campaign and you have been part of that campaign. I will continue to work with you, to persuade schools to move away from academic selection in an effort to improve the education system for the benefit of all of our children.”

In conclusion, the Minister said:

“Momentum is clearly building in favour of educating children of all abilities and backgrounds together and I commend the schools which have already taken that step away from academic selection. I urge the Boards of Governors of any school that is considering making the move not to be dissuaded from that path.

“Primary and post-primary principals have a key role to play in communicating with parents and explaining to them how these unregulated tests are unnecessary and I believe there is a role for the CPA illustrating how the current and future shape of educational provision renders academic selection obsolete.”

The Minister finished by acknowledging the work of the Association during the last number of years and wished them well for the future.

Notes to editors: 

  1. Loreto College, Coleraine has been operating successfully as a non-selective grammar school since September 2012.
  2.  St Michael’s Grammar School, Lurgan – which merged with St Paul’s and St Mary’s Junior High Schools and re-opened in September 2015 as St Ronan’s College.
  3. St Patrick’s Grammar School, Armagh – is non-selective from September 2015.
  4. A Development proposal has been published and recently approved in relation to Dominican College, Portstewart which will see them taking forward a phased and complete transformation away from the use of academic selection commencing 1 September 2017 or as soon as possible thereafter and I hope that more schools will follow suit.
  5. The Department of Education’s ‘Education Works’ campaign promotes the value of education. This year’s campaign aims to ensure that parents have information on schooling and that they are aware of the steps they can take to ‘Get Involved’ and support their teenager in achieving good outcomes at school. Watch out for the ads on television, radio and outdoor locations. The campaign highlights the vital role families can play in helping children do well at school and improve their life chances. Visit nidirect - Education Works for more information or watch the TV ad on the Department’s YouTube channel
  6. See photos from the Department of Education in our flickr collection.
  7. Media enquiries to the Department of Education’s Communications Team on Tel: 028 9127 9268. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699715440 and your call will be returned.

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