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Ulster's parents call for an end to 11-plus

Government ministers are coming under pressure to scrap Northern Ireland's controversial 11-plus transfer system after one of this year's test papers was inadvertently leaked to schools.

The province's Department of Education said this week it was prepared to look at viable alternatives, provided they have enough parental support.

One possible model is to switch to selection at 14, based on two-tier secondary schools, a system already in operation in the Craigavon area of County Armagh.

An indication of the growing strength of parental opposition to the 11-plus came in a telephone poll held by Ulster Television which drew a record participation of more than 8,000 calls. More than 80 per cent of those who took part voted against any formal testing of children at 10 and 11.

As families in Londonderry began a petition demanding Education Minister Michael Ancram should resign, he wrote to the parents of the 18,400 children whose first test will not now be marked to promise it will never happen again.

The leaking of the questions was sparked by one primary principal, who was involved on an unpaid basis in selecting questions, showing them to another primary head but Mr Ancram has insisted there was no malice or sabotage intended.

The department could however face an avalanche of appeals after leading Belfast solicitor Patrick Donaghy said parents would have a strong case for seeking a judicial review.

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