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On the eve of 2009 it is opportune to reflect on the legacy of ending the 11-plus in Northern Ireland. The “unregulated” system has left a vacuum of uncertainty for parents and children in primary schools. One group of grammar schools are offering a privitased transfer test similar to the most recent form of 11-plus testing.


The Catholic sector, unwilling to join their Christian fellows in the Voluntary and Controlled grammar schools, have broken away and will offer a retrograde “intelligence test” impossible to teach for using the current revised curriculum.

The Apartheid system facing parents in 2009 will result in further and formal segregation of schooling on a denominational basis. There will be no parity between the tests and parents living in Belfast will struggle to decide which test to enter their child for. The practical difficulties alone only serve to highlight the ineptitude of those charged with delivering education services. The peculiar moral and ethical juxtaposition of the Catholic Church’s position over a retrograde test for admission is best highlighted in the following passage. It should be remembered that the Church supports the revised curriculum.

As for the DUP; their support for the ESA and the litany of failures delivered by CCEA is only matched by their facile reversal of the St Andrew’s Agreement promises on academic selection and grammar schools.


In the specifically educational field, the scope of educational functions has broadened, becoming more complex, more specialized. The sciences of education, which concentrated in the past on the study of the child and teacher-training, have been widened to include the various stages of life, and the different spheres and situations beyond the school. New requirements have given force to the demand for new contents, new capabilities and new educational models besides those followed traditionally. Thus education and schooling become particularly difficult today.

Such an outlook calls for courageous renewal on the part of the Catholic school. The precious heritage of the experience gained over the centuries reveals its vitality precisely in the capacity for prudent innovation. And so, now as in the past, the Catholic school must be able to speak for itself effectively and convincingly.
The Catholic school, therefore, undertakes a cordial and constructive dialogue with states and civil authorities. Such dialogue and collaboration must be based on mutual respect, on the reciprocal recognition of each other’s role and on a common service to mankind. To achieve this end, the Catholic school willingly occupies its place within the school system of the different countries and in the legislation of the individual states, when the latter respect the fundamental rights of the human person, starting with respect for life and religious freedom. A correct relationship between state and school, not only a Catholic school, is based not so much on institutional relations as on the right of each person to receive a suitable education of their free choice. This right is acknowledged according to the principle of subsidiarity.(18) For “The public authority, therefore, whose duty it is to protect and defend the liberty of the citizens, is bound according to the principle of distributive justice to ensure that public subsidies are so allocated that parents are truly free to select schools for their children in accordance with their conscience“.