Agenda 2001: Concerns over Transfer Review

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Representatives of the main Protestant churches in Northern Ireland have expressed fears that political doctrine, not educational criteria and Christian values, are driving the Department of Education's current review on post/primary school transfer procedures.

A four-man delegation of senior Presbyterian, Church of Ireland and Methodist clerics raised the fears of their churches at a consultation meeting at Stormont on Thursday with the Northern Ireland Assembly's educational scrutiny committee.

They insisted the needs and requirements of pupils in the mainly Protestant-controlled state sector should be in line with that allocated proportionally to the mainly Roman Catholic voluntary maintained schools and the integrated sectors.

"Cross-community confidence in the process is essential. Change should be incremental with evolution, not revolution,'' warned Church of Ireland cleric Canon Houston McKelvey, secretary of the Transferors' Representative Council, which speaks for Protestant churches involved on education boards and governors' boards.

"Creation of an independent sector must be avoided. Grammar schools are not responsible for deficiencies in the selection process and there is a fear in the Protestant community of losing what is good at present in education,'' said Canon McKelvey.

The Transferors Representative Councils said there was a lack of confidence in the present system of educational administration in respect of the controlled state schools.

"Whilst this may be the result of misconception in some part, it indicates that there is a need for major confidence-building measures in respect of the ownership of Agreement to be explored positively,'' said Canon McKelvey. …