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What the minister said

In a carefully worded response, Mr Wilson commented: "These are interesting statistics which will inform this important debate. I have always left the door open to flexibility if that is what education authorities and others want.

"The spirit of our commitment is absolutely clear but it would not make sense to impose the letter of it if all interested parties in a particular area were saying it was unnecessary or even undesirable.

"I will continue to discuss these matters frankly and openly in order to achieve the most sensible solutions consistent with the objectives of our policy."

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