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Ulster board considers abolishing 11-plus

Northern Ireland's largest education authority is to consider scrapping the controversial 11-plus selection system, writes Noel McAdam.

Amid speculation that selection is to reappear on the mainland, the Western Area Board in Northern Ireland is to examine alternatives to the exam.

The board will look at the so-called Dickson plan, which operates in the Craigavon area. There pupils at junior and senior high schools are able to switch to grammar-style streams at 14.

Members of the Western Board which includes Londonderry have long had misgivings about the effects of selection. However, there is also a strong grammar lobby in the area which includes schools like Portora - the alma mater of playwrights Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett.

Last year 18,000 children were forced to take a third 11-plus paper when questions were leaked to a small number of schools.

Meanwhile the Irish National Teachers Organisation has launched a campaign to build support for comprehensive education, writes Paul McGill.

The union is holding a forum later this month for political parties, churches and educational bodies opposed to selection. It believes it has the backing of political parties representing 70 per cent of the electorate either for the abolition of the 11-plus or at least for its deferral until the age of 14.

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