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Northern Ireland - 11-plus coaches come under fire

Primary teachers in Northern Ireland have been criticised by education minister Caitriona Ruane for coaching 10-year-old pupils for 11-plus exams.

Speaking at the conference of the NASUWT teaching union, Ms Ruane reaffirmed her decision not to return to the 11-plus system and added that teachers who were trying to help their pupils pass grammar school entrance exams were contributing to social inequalities.

"I have previously told schools that teaching of the revised curriculum should not be distorted to prepare children for these tests," says Ms Ruane. "I would now urge all teachers not to get involved in a practice that excludes and discriminates against children from lower-income families."

Although the primary curriculum does not prepare 10 and 11-year-old pupils for entrance exams set by individual independents, primary teachers are under pressure from parents whose children will be sitting these exams.

Yet Ms Ruane remains adamant that teachers should not co-operate. "Private tutoring for breakaway tests provides support to a system that is unnecessary and unjust and further perpetuates inequality," she said. "It is a further obstacle preventing children from accessing the education to which they are entitled." MR.

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