Gillian Dunlop, Past President of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, was speaking as thousands of children sit the fourth year of the unregulated grammar school entrance exams over the next few weeks.
“How long will the pro-selection lobby base their argument on maintaining academic excellence within grammar schools as the reason to retain this iniquitous system which could see 10-year-olds sitting up to five exams in just four weeks,” said Mrs Dunlop.
“You simply cannot argue with the statistics which show that whereas in the past, grammar schools accepted around 25% of their local population – because of falling birth rates, they are now taking in around 50% of that population. Even this year we see around 7% fewer children in the P7 cohort than last year.
“Grammar schools, like every other school, will need to fill their desks to maximise their funding and in order to do so will, by the sheer laws of expediency, have to accept children whose academic performance may not have secured them a place 10 or 15 years ago. Why then does this pro-grammar lobby insist on basing its argument on academic excellence when this is blatantly not the case.
“The result is that as this falling number of children is accommodated in the grammar schools we see secondary schools left with unviable numbers. Is it any wonder that we have such a disparity here in Northern Ireland between the children that do well and those who fail to gain even the minimum required qualifications at 16.
“We need to see an equality of funding across all post-primary schools – indeed we need to see an equality of funding across both the primary and secondary sectors as, at the moment, a secondary sector pupil is ‘worth’ more than a primary school pupil in terms of the money the child’s school receives towards its education.
“It would behove those currently apparently intent on proliferating the selection system to accept the facts of the population statistics and work together towards a future which maximises all children’s potential.”
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