In an important milestone for Northern Ireland’s education system, Peter Weir yesterday said that academic selection is “here to stay”.
The DUP education minister’s statement ends 18 years of assault on the Province’s grammar schools.
Mr Weir has taken over a department that has been in the hands of Sinn Fein since the late 1990s, minus the long periods in which Stormont was suspended.
The abolition of the 11-plus achieved nothing. It merely made the test system more complicated.
That a unionist who is committed to grammar schools has taken over the reins in education is a huge relief to parents across Northern Ireland.
It has seemed for a long time that Sinn Fein, backed by politicians in numerous parties, was going to send us down the disastrous route that Great Britain has followed, of comprehensive schools. All that has done is increase the importance of private education over there, and made society even more unequal than it was.
The anti grammar ideologues will never accept that fact, however obvious it is.
Mr Weir is one of the more able MLAs at Stormont. It is to be hoped that this translates into a successful tenure in a department that is full of challenges.
There is no question that the tribal divide has made school provision more bloated and inefficient than it ought to be.
Sinn Fein wanted to tackle things precisely the wrong way round: get rid of grammars, but maintain the Catholic school and non Catholic school divide.
It often seemed that the notion of ‘shared education’ was merely used by some to maintain that divide.
Northern Ireland’s grammar schools are the envy of the rest of the UK. Much of England, and many influential people in the Conservative parliamentary party, wish they had never got rid of their own grammars. For us to have followed such an obviously flawed system would have been a tragic blunder.