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Northern Ireland - First minister backs selection

Democratic unionist Party leader and Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson has attacked the Catholic Church's renewed stand against academic selection, saying he knows many Catholic parents who "vehemently oppose this position".

Mr Robinson acknowledged that the 11-plus system was not ideal but said he was in favour of using Computer Adaptive Testing, which assesses pupils at various stages in primary school. The first minister also said politicians did not have the right to impose "ideological doctrines" on others. "Parents have rights," he said.

Mr Robinson released his statement in response to the launch of the biggest review of Catholic education, which could see the creation of completely new school models.

New proposals from the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE) include an end to academic selection, the establishment of federations between schools in the same area, the amalgamation of single-sex institutions into co-educational ones and the creation of new 11-14 junior highs.

Speaking at the NICCE post-primary review launch last week at St Catherine's College in Armagh, Cardinal Sean Brady said that the debate about academic selection needed to become more "inclusive and wide-ranging". MR.

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