Watch Michael Gove continue the Conservative Party’s attack on grammar schools. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/andrew_marr_show/9523011.stm
Given that Gavin Boyd’s tenure at CCEA started on a claim that the exam errors which resulted in the dismissal of his predecessor would not happen again it seems bizarre that the Stormont MLAs remain silent on the latest error on his watch. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/1527663.stm
It would seem that Gavin Boyd’s investigation precluded the possibility of human error such as lining up two pieces of paper, one with the incorrect grade boundaries could ever happen. The Education Committee bought it back in 2001. Will they buy Gvin Boyd’s excuses in 2011?
On Thursday 25th November 2010 the BBC Radio Ulster http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00vm6w7 carried a story on the fingerprinting of children at school. Stephen Nolan, the host of what he constantly describes as the “Biggest Show in the Country” in Northern Ireland also broadcasts throughout the U.K. with his Radio Five Live Show. Nolan played his part in expressing his version of ”shock and horror” over the collection of biometric data on children. It is a poor reflection on the Nolan Show that previous coverage of this issue was ignored.http://stopfingerprintingschoolchildren.blogspot.com/
A concerned parent contacted the Nolan Show about concerns over the introduction of a cashless biometric system at his child’s school, Banbridge Academy. The man expressed concerns over the lack of informed consent sought by tyhe school and fears over how the data may be stored and shared. He mentioned to Nolan that he had spent four days researching the subject after he received a letter from the school telling him the system would be installed.
The letter sent by Banbridge Academy to parents on behalf of the Southern Education and Library Board BanAcadFP revealed the extent of predetermination and lack of consultation on the matter. It is regretable that the school’s Board of Governors choose to make themselves scapegoats on the Nolan Show for the actions of the SELB.
The four day gap between the letter and installation is shown here.
“I don’t believe children should be fingerprinted”
“Parents can opt out”
“Parents and children have rights”
” I’m not going to bring my children into this”
“Children have rights”
Stephen Nolan had the opportunity to question the Education Minister about the introduction of the biometric system at Banbridge Academy, a SELB-controlled school . When asked about the decision to introduce the system she clearly put the focus on the grammar school’s Board of Governors saying;
“That question should be put to the Board of Governors”
As the letter from the school clearly states the decision to impose the biometric data gathering sysytem was one of the SELB. The Minister is either deliberately attempting to undermine the grammar school as part of her relentless but ineffective ideological campaign or she simply doesn’t know what is going on in her Department’s name.
February 3, 2010
Newsnight Scotland has highlighted hitherto unreported figures in the government’s own Survey of Achievement which show primary teachers consistently overestimate how well their pupils are doing.
In recent years, teachers thought their children would be three times better at science than subsequent tests revealed. In maths, P7 teachers were twice as optimistic as reality. And in reading, teachers thought their P7 pupils would do one and a half times better than the eventual test results. The Scottish Survey of Achievement also shows primary teachers have little confidence in their ability to teach science – even though it is a key part of the government’s new Curriculum for Excellence.
The findings could represent an opportunity for the government – because it has the potential to shift the debate away from class sizes to something that really determines the quality of a Scottish education: the quality of the teachers themselves.
The Scottish government is now setting up a major review of teacher education, which will start work next month. It will have access to a series of findings which cast further doubt on the quality of Scottish primary education – and the teachers who deliver it.
Source: BBC Education http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/8484180.stm
These findings lend support to concerns raised by PACE on the overestimation of teachers estimates of pupils’ progress at Key Stage 3 on the elements of numeracy and literacy http://paceni.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/northern-ireland%e2%80%99s-key-stage-3-literacy-levels-crash/
Unfortunately for parents in Northern Ireland the BBC and print media did not cover the story. The DENI or CCEA also failed to offer a comment
December 20, 2009
So says Conor Ryan, who describes himself as “A blogger about politics, education, a Dublin-born writer and consultant, former adviser to Tony Blair and David Blunkett on education, based in Bath in the South West of England.”
Citing a Guardian report, http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/dec/10/vote-weakens-sats-boycott
The National Association of Head Teachers, the union that represents many of the heads in primary schools, has already voted to back a boycott of the tests, but is unlikely to go ahead without the NUT.
The tests for 11-year-olds in English, maths and science were introduced in 1995 and have always been controversial. Much of the opposition to the tests stems from the use of results to create league tables.
Ed Balls, the schools secretary, has announced reforms to next year’s tests which will see teacher assessments published alongside the externally marked tests.
Northern Ireland already publish these data. When PACE analysed the results one of the most obvious findings was the disparity between teacher assessments and the externally marked tests. Parents are likely to be misled over their child’s attainment by a significant margin.
Last weeks failure by the local media, including the BBC, to pick up on the dramatic decline in standards of lietracy and numeracy in post-primary schools http://paceni.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/northern-ireland%e2%80%99s-key-stage-3-literacy-levels-crash/ demonstrates the problem of accepting teacher union claims as being representative of their members.
The crying shame for parents and children is that individual teachers do not have the courage to raise their heads above the parapet and speak out.
The Sinn Fein and PUP anti-academic selection position criticised by National Grammar Schools Association
November 14, 2009
The ideological positions of republican and unionist political parties in Northern Ireland on academic selection and grammar schools has been dissected by the chairman of the National Grammar Schools Association, Robert McCartney QC during an interview on the BBC Daily Politics Show. (at about 14 mins in)
The interview and discussion on the Northern Ireland selective system was broadcast on the day prior to the first unregulated 11-plus transfer tests. It pitted the Education Minister’s pointman Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd against Robert McCartney QC former MP and MLA, since retired from politics. Mr McCartney is the current chairman of the National Grammar Schools Association http://ngsa.org.uk Mr McCartney highlighted the absurdity of those paramilitary groups with links to political parties such as Sinn Fein and the IRA and the Progressive Unionist Pary and the UVF, both of whom wreaked havoc, terrorised and murdered the parents of primary school pupils. Mr McCartney pointed out that their political leaders now claim to be looking after the interests of socio-economically deprived children by abolishing grammar schools and academic selection. The NGSA leader suggested to BBC viewers that this claim is the ultimate ironic claim from terrorists.
September 22, 2009
Parents will be interested to note what happens to exam chiefs who dare to speak the wrong message to the public.
The BBC have reported on the upcoming resignation of Edexcel exam chief, Jerry Jarvis.
Mr Jarvis spoke out in August on the controversy over easier exams saying:
“We are looking at ways of discriminating or ranking figures quite regularly in discussions we have.
“In the future we may see complementary measures of performance.
“But grades have been around for a long time. The public have a feel for what is meant by grades.”
Meanwhile in Northern Ireland the exams chief, Gavin Boyd, who brought parents the ending of the transfer test, the revised curriculum, pupil profiles and assessment for learning rather than assessment of learning was promoted to head the entire education system under the ESA.
The lesson here is not to anger the bosses in their superannuated socialist compounds lest the career end early.
September 20, 2009
The BBC reported on Friday that the Northern Ireland Roman Catholic Bishop responsible for implementing the church’s position against academic selection will to take steps to ensure that there is ‘ not a selectionist about the place’
Bishop Donal McKeown has made it unequivocal on where the church hierarchy stands and it is clearly now actively opposed to the views of Catholic parents who support the right for a choice.
This revelation from a body, none of whom are parents, puts paid to notion of choice and reveals the deliberate sectarian position adopted by the Catholic authorities. Why then did they support their Boards of Governors in providing a GL Assessment test to determine entry to their grammar schools?
Once parents have been croziered into compliance with the “Catholic Test” it will be withdrawn leaving the parents and pupils adrift. For Catholic parents throughout the UK the realisation that the Catholic church place corporate and financial interests before those of parents and children will be hard to accept. The facts hurt.
September 14, 2009
November 16, 2008
The article below was one of a series of three supplied to the Belfast Telegraph by R. L. McCartney QC.
Without explanation this remained unpublished by the newspaper which recently bombarded parents with endless “exclusives” on the Northern Ireland education reform issue. Take note that the Belfast Telegraph and the BBC have adopted Professor Tony Gallagher as a neutral expert. Professor Gallagher has declined the opportunity to legally challenge the charges made against him. Parents may wonder why not?
The proposed educational reforms place the future of Northern Ireland’s children at the edge of an abyss. The questions facing their parents are these. How and why have we come to the present chaos? and what if anything can be done about it?
Martin McGuinness when he became Minister of Education was hardly, by experience, an expert in the subject but he mistakenly believed that the principle of selection as well as the method of making it were socially unfair and elitist. His social and political objective was to abolish both. The case for removing the principle of selection was weak, with 64% of the parents consulted in the Costello Report responding in favour of its retention. An equal percentage of parents however voted against keeping the 11+ test as the means of selection.
Democratically, the issue which should have been addressed was the finding of a fairer and less stressful method of selection which might have included possible improvements to the existing test, like the use of computer adaptive testing. Research and investment should also have been directed to those areas of the current system said to be failing and the initiation of policies to remedy identified defects.
The cost of this, both in financial and social disruption terms, would have been minimal compared to the consequences of the present proposals, which will create and enrich an array of well rewarded bureaucrats.
Viewed objectively, selection was producing for Northern Ireland, academic results that were the envy of the rest of the United Kingdom. In terms of upward social mobility it was out-performing the mainland comprehensives by some 50%. Despite claims to the contrary, a smaller percentage of children in Northern Ireland were leaving school with no qualifications than was the case on mainland Britain. The case for “keeping the best and improving the rest” was unanswerable in both educational and administrative terms. None of this, however, would have satisfied Sinn Fein’s political and ideological objectives. Grammar schools were erroneously viewed as bastions of middle class privilege and, as such, had to be abolished. The popular antipathy to the 11+ was, therefore, used to mask the real target which was the principle of selection itself. It is noteworthy that on two occasions Sinn Fein has made the Education Portfolio its first choice. It was necessary for Sinn Fein to enlist the assistance of “progressive educationalists” in support of a new education infrastructure that would advance the Party’s political agenda. As a result, the Minister commissioned a series of allegedly independent reports from groups whose members were, in the main, anti-selection and whose advisory experts such as C.C.E.A. (Council for Curriculum Examinations and Assessment) were opposed to a subject based curriculum.
The first report was that of Tony Gallagher on “the effects of the Selective System of Secondary Education in Northern Ireland”. Gallagher was a self-acknowledged opponent of selection and the composition of his group and his own disproportionate contribution raised serious doubts about its independence. The next report from Mr. Burns relied heavily on Gallagher and made no attempt to answer the central question – “Does comprehensive or selection education provide the best results and the greater degree of social mobility?” A comparison between Northern Ireland and the mainland’s comprehensives would have provided an affirmative answer to both in favour of Northern Ireland. Burns avoided either putting the question or allowing the comparison, since neither would have served the Minister’s objective. In his attempts to veil his support for comprehensives, Burns came up with the totally unworkable idea of the Pupil Profile to be prepared by the primary school and made available to parents as an aid to their choice of school, but not to be disclosed to the admitting school. All efforts to produce a Pupil Profile meeting international standards of validity and reliability have utterly failed. Indeed, recent exhaustive research in Germany where assignment of primary school pupils to an appropriate further school is based on teacher assessment and advice to parents, has demonstrated an overwhelming prejudice in favour of children from middle class families to the clear disadvantage of children from poor and working class backgrounds – the very children who in Northern Ireland are supposed to benefit from the proposed reforms.
The next report was that of Costello. This group, like its forerunners, Gallagher and Burns, was largely populated by anti-selection personnel. This report synthesised the unbalanced findings of Gallagher and Burns and recommended a curriculum directed to the reduction of subject based teaching in favour of the more “Holistic Approach” advised by C.C.E.A. This satellite government funded agency was dedicated to many of the progressive ideas that had failed in pre and post war America, pre-war Germany, and post-war Britain. As an advisory body it was critical of subject based learning and supported its gradual replacement by grandiose schemes clothed in vague and nebulous language. The failed progressive ideas of sixty years ago were enshrined in the paragraphs of Costello dealing with the curriculum and subsequently embedded in legislation by the Education (Northern Ireland Order) 2006.
Carmel Gallagher, then Manager for Curriculum in C.C.E.A., had earlier described her curriculum framework as “the Trojan Horse that would be the vehicle for effecting significant change”. Clearly the change intended by a policy of deception was a move away from subject based learning like languages, maths, physics, chemistry, as well as history and geography, into a generalised and failed so-called progressive education for the 21st Century in which hardly a single idea was new or had proved successful throughout the 20th Century. Moreover, this progressive education had failed most dramatically in helping children from poor and disadvantaged homes. Middle class parents could provide the means that ensured their children survived the most extreme and untested educational reforms, but for the poor, if they were not taught at school, they were frequently not taught at all.
The new curriculum creates a basis for future education requiring “Big Schools” offering a “Bloated Curriculum” and based on educational ideas that have failed in the past. It is a curriculum which is the antithesis of the grammar school ethos and the form of education the grammar schools offer. As such it will eventually make the survival of the grammar school and subject based education untenable.
It has now become evident that the entitlement framework with its projected 24 GCSE subjects to 27 A Level subjects is fatally flawed. No definition of what is claimed to be vocational or academic has been made even when they have been re-designated as applied and general. The 11+ has been abolished without any alternative method of matching a child’s aptitudes to an appropriate school. Parents are placed in a condition of total uncertainly and the Minister is clearly at the furthest limit of her competence. Her present attempts to escape from a chaotic situation by farming out decision making to local groups largely composed of fellow travellers is evidence that she finds the current situation beyond her capacity to solve. The introduction of the Entitlement Framework ( the new curriculum ) is now about to be postponed until 2013, while the inappropriately named “ Enriched Curriculum” for primary schools has now been repackaged as the “ Foundation Curriculum “ with a flawed linguistic phonics programme at its’ core. Starved of resources this curriculum is now in an administrative limbo. Perhaps because of a recognition that it is based on ideas inconsistent with the most recent research on the teaching of reading as demonstrated by the Rose report.
The curriculum proposals embodied in the Education ( NI ) Order 2006 are wholly inconsistent with any future for the subject based education which Northern Irelands’ Grammar schools provide and only its’ repeal or substantial amendment coupled with a fresh beginning can offer any hope for their ultimate survival.
Until parents organise themselves in mass protest and teachers refuse to be dragooned into compliance with the alleged progressive demands of the Education Department, Local Boards, alleged experts and some of their Union representatives, the future education of Northern Ireland’s children will continue to remain bleak. In the United States it was the widespread protest of parents, particularly from black and underprivileged areas, and the courage of independent journalists such as Walter Lipmann that stemmed the wave of “progressive reforms” generated by those claiming to be experts in education; and who mistakenly believed that schools could solve any social or political problem when their real purpose should have been merely “to educate”.