The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) is opposed to schools’ continued use of unregulated 11-plus tests to admit children.
The union’s annual northern conference in Limavady, Co Derry, heard calls for more to be done to remove academic selection.
Chairwoman Annmarie Conway told delegates she is “someone who puts their money where their mouth is” by sending her children to a non-selective secondary school.
She praised education minister John O’Dowd for his pursuit of a policy that removed the state-sponsored transfer test.
That was eight years ago, she said, with most grammar schools still retaining academic selection. It was now time to “change the narrative”. She added: “We have schools which deliver the same curriculum, offer the same subjects to the same level and in many respects achieve the same outcomes, yet for some reason the perception remains that because your blazer is a different colour or because of the exclusive term ‘grammar’, then by association you are better educated and indeed, do a better class of GCSE or A level.
“If every school is a good school then it is about time we were treated as such. This is not an attack on grammar schools, it is an attack on a system that perpetuates a myth and allows not for academic selection but social selection.”
A system that tests children as young as 10 to gain entry into a school, imposing this barrier, she added, served to create social division. “An education system and the schools within that system should exist to serve the children they are there to educate, not the other way round,” she continued.
“An education system should not have within it schools that continue to place barriers in front of many young people through maintaining the outdated system of academic selection.
“We all want the best for our children, but we need to be clear that grammar schools are not the exclusive pathway to an academic education with non-selective schools providing a purely vocational offering. Both sectors can deliver and do deliver an excellent education.”