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Northern Ireland - Key schools report blasted

A key government report on a major reorganisation of Northern Ireland's education system was an "anticlimax" and failed to make any significant progress, according to a teaching union.

The Together Towards Entitlement report, published last week, was supposed to explain how schools should work together to offer a greater choice of subjects.

All post-primary partnerships will have to offer at least 24 subjects at GCSE and 27 at A-level under the new "entitlement curriculum" plan, which will be compulsory from 2013.

But Brendan Harron, senior official for the Irish National Union of Teachers, said the report had failed to deliver a "strategic plan" and the union had expected specific examples and details of how schools could work together.

"The most obvious obstacle is local management of schools, ie finance," he said. "If three schools in the same area are competing to attract pupils, how are you going to get them to sit down and arrange a clustering arrangement?"

Basil McCrea, MLA for the Ulster Unionist Party, who sits on Stormont's education committee, called the report "underwhelming", saying it only highlighted the problems.

In a speech to the Assembly, Education Minister Caitriona Ruane conceded that the pace of change "needs to be quickened", but said the recommendations in the report provided practical advice and priority actions for the stakeholders involved. MR.

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