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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Jessica Black

Lisburn mum feels 'let down' by Minister's refusal to meet about transfer tests

Distraught parents whose kids are overwrought about transfer tests have been refused a meeting with the Education Minister.

Alisha Briggs had hoped to meet with Peter Weir on behalf of hundreds of parents - some of whose 10 and 11-year-olds have stopped eating or sleeping - and even talked about self harm.

A Department of Education spokeswoman said Mr Weir was too busy to meet directly with parents but had agreed to meet with MLA Chris Lyttle in their stead.

Almost 1000 people have signed Ms Briggs petition to suspend academic selection because of Covid-19. Currently exams have been pushed back just a few weeks.

The Lisburn mum said the refusal made her feel like she'd let down "900 people and mummies who are at their wits end".

She added: "We feel very deflated by the fact that he can’t give us 30 minutes.

"They [ministers] are not at home with children having night terrors, crying, not sleeping, not eating.

"For us it feels like he doesn’t care about the emotional needs of the children.

"If he doesn’t speak up for the needs of our children, who’s going to support them?"

She said her own daughter had become "tearful and withdrawn" - but insists on doing the test so she can go to her chosen school.

Other parents had pulled out because their kids weren't coping.

Ms Briggs added: "Personally my daughter cries because she’s beating herself up because she feels she should be doing better.

"Then there’s other days when the children are crying just looking at the test papers.

"No parent likes to see their child hurting, at this moment in time life is so scary and you just want to protect your child."

A Department spokeswoman said: “The Minister has confirmed that he was content to meet with Chris Lyttle on behalf of the delegation of parents in his capacity as MLA.

"It was the Minister’s understanding from the outset that Chris Lyttle was going to be representing the views of said parents to the Minister which would be the usually accepted format.

Alliance Party Cllr Sorcha Eastwood (Jonathan Porter/PressEye)

"The Minister’s time is already extremely limited given the wide range of issues the Department is currently dealing with, such as Education Restart.

"That said the Minister did indicate to Mr Lyttle that he would make time for him to express and represent the views of the parents who have made direct contact with his office.”

But Lisburn and Castlereagh councillor Sorcha Eastwood said the Minister needed to hear from the parents themselves

Ms Eastwood, who has been working with the group, added: "Parents would have been uniquely placed to express to the Minister how they feel.

"It shouldn’t fall to parents to have to think up these alternatives – this is entirely within the Education Minister’s remit and to not consider alternatives as a matter of urgency is both negligent and unfair."

Mr Lyttle, her Alliance colleague and Education Committee chair, said Mr Weir's refusal was "surprising and unacceptable", and should be reversed.

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