First Minister won’t tolerate an “excuse to damage grammar schools and to end academic selection”

First Minister Arlene Foster has said she will not tolerate an “excuse to damage grammar schools and to end academic selection” from parties “using the executive to give them a platform”.

By Gemma Murray
Thursday, 7th January 2021, 12:07 pm

Speaking this morning on BBC’s Good Morning Ulster she declined to confirm that her party would use cross community veto to protect the exam.

“I hope we don’t have to use the cross community veto to protect the transfer test and academic selection”.

She added the exam - seven weeks away - may be stopped if there is “a public health issue”.

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The DUP leader said the exam allowed her to proceed to a grammar school and university - the first from her family to attend.

January’s tests for pupils seeking to transfer from primary to grammars were cancelled on Tuesday but hours later a date was set in February.

Stormont’s powersharing partners, Sinn Fein and the DUP, are fundamentally split over the need for a transfer test at age 10 or 11.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has publicly urged a private firm organising the test to drop the plan.

First Minister Arlene Foster

Justin McCamphill, an official at teachers’ union NASUWT, said: “The (education) minister’s responsibilities in relation to exams do not end at GCSE and A-level.

“The minister must intervene and end the uncertainty around the transfer test for this year.

“The minister cannot simply wash his hands of the issue on the basis that the tests are ‘run by a private organisation’.

“All schools using the test are publicly funded and very much lie within the remit of the minister.”

A planned NI Executive meeting today has been postponed as members attend family funerals.

Earlier on Good Morning Ulster, Health minister Robin Swann appealed for the NI public to ‘look to your inner self and to your better nature’ to what is being asked of you and ‘protect the NHS’.

Speaking this morning on BBC’s Good Morning Ulster, Me Swann added: “This is something we are asking people to do for the next number of weeks” so they can “potentially see the vaccine rollout”.

He said that NI “got itself into a good place in first wave by people doing what they needed to do “.

He also said the pressures on the NHS from Coronavirus patients has forced hospitals to see “a downturn in elective work”.

Mr Swann said NI “got itself into good place in first wave by people doing what they needed to do”.

He agreed that messaging from the NI Executive “could be better” but there is “additional messaging coming in tonight”.

“Sometimes with outdoor gatherings there is confusion, but that will be tidied up today.”

Mr Swann said the confusion is exacerbated by “the real time reporting and leaking” from the NI Executive.

He also said the pressures on the NHS from Coronavirus patients has forced hospitals to see “a downturn in elective work”.

Mr Swann said NI “got itself into good place in first wave by people doing what they needed to do”.

He added: “I warned we could be looking at worst winter ever”.

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