Although the Government's clear view is that abolishing academic selection would be in the best interests of education and the economy in Northern Ireland, they have accepted that the final decision on this matter should rest with local political parties, provided there is an early restoration of the Assembly. The Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 therefore provided that the Assembly would be able to vote on the issue if it was restored by 24 November 2006.
In the context of the St Andrews agreement, the Government decided that, provided the Northern Ireland political parties had endorsed the agreement by 10 November, they would amend the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 to reflect the revised target date of March 2007 for restoration of the Assembly.
On 10 November, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced that the Government would proceed to ensure full implementation of the St Andrews agreement. The Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act includes a provision amending the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 to enable the Assembly to vote on academic selection if devolution has been restored by 28 March 2007. If devolution has not been restored by that date, the provisions of the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 which prohibit academic selection will come into force immediately and take effect in relation to admissions after 31 July 2010.
Paragraph 7 of the St Andrews agreement made clear that it was the view of the British and Irish Governments that the implementation of that agreement should be sufficient to build the community confidence necessary for the Assembly to request the devolution of policing and criminal justice by May 2008.