The Guardian covered the Burns Report and Household Survey back in 2002.
Here are some comments from an article from Will Greenwood
Recognising that no assessment procedure is ever 100% satisfactory, Stevenson (former Sullivan head) believes that the 11-plus, “with adequate safeguards”, is a decent system.
“There are things wrong with the Northern Ireland education set-up which need to be considered, but I am not in the least convinced that the Burns report has all the answers. In fact, I am deeply concerned that we are doing away with some of the good things in the education system and not replacing them with anything worthwhile at all… at the moment we seems to be involved in a huge rush to end academic selection and destroy grammar schools.”
Arbuthnot (Priory in Holywood) went to grammar school, sent two of his children to a grammar school, and wants to see selection abolished. Stevenson failed his 11-plus and wants to retain it. Last week he was signed up to support the Daily Mirror’s “Save Our Grammar Schools” campaign, (where did that one go?) bringing in such unlikely Mirror writers as Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspector of schools in England.
“The transfer test is not a fool-proof system and it is not the end of the world if pupils fail it. But it can feel like the end of the world when it is over dramatised the way it has been by some people,” Stevenson told the Mirror.
But McGuinness is the 11-plus failure who matters most in all this, and he says the debate about the Burns report has been “tremendous”.
“I think the success of it lies in the fact that there was an expectation among many people previously that to have a debate on this issue would be highly acrimonious and contentious,” he told the Guardian. “I have to say I’m very pleased that we’ve had a very high quality debate that’s going to continue over the next number of weeks and months.
“We haven’t made our minds up, we haven’t made any decision whatsoever about how we’re moving forward because we want this to be a real consultation, a real opportunity for people to have their say and know that they’ve been listened to. Even on the initial responses I’m getting, people are saying to me, ‘this is one of the few times we’ve been asked our opinion on anything’… I wanted there to be a real sense within the community that we haven’t got our minds made up.”
Except that the final conclusion is bound to be that the 11-plus is scrapped, for the Sinn Fein number two is a long-standing, vocal opponent of it. “When I came into this job at the very beginning some of my old acquaintances said ‘don’t even think about doing anything about the 11-plus because it won’t work’, and here we are two years on and I haven’t heard anybody defending it,” he says.