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.
November 14, 2010
It will hardly come as a surprise that the Northern Ireland Sinn Fein Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane has intensified her attack on parental choice and measurement of numeracy and literacy attainment while enveloped in evidence that such standards are continuing to fall short. Those politicians, like her, who persist in attacking grammar schools and parents who believe in their value are seriously out of touch with reality. Ruane clearly is attempting to bully parents into choosing her neighbourhood comprehensive school diktat despite having selecting a grammar school for her own child. The bully is becoming increasingly frustrated,seemingly as stubborn as the poor levels of numeracy and literacy accepted by her teachers and fellow politicians.
November 11, 2010
MINISTER’S FOREWORD to the CircularIn many respects Transfer 2011 will operate in a similar way to Transfer 2010, however, I have decided to make one change to the process
Department’s policy on post-primary transfer, initially described in Transfer 2010 Guidance published on 25 June 2009, and further consolidated by the publication on 5 July 2010 of a postprimary transfer policy covering Transfer 20II and beyond. It is important that recipients read this document carefully to ensure that the process of transfer remains functional and coherent in the interests of all children and their parents. It is clearly very important that primary school principals continue to offer their help and advice to all P7 parents. It is also very important that the primary school principal’s role in
“Primary School Principals should note that it is clearly very important that they continue to offer their help and advice to all P7 parents. It is also very important that the primary school principal’s role in Transfer is clear and receives the support ofthe Department. For these reasons, all primary school principals should invite parents of P7 children to an interview to advise on the completion of a Transfer Form and these interviews should take place on or before 4 February 2011. Grammar school breakaway entrance test results issue after this date. Primaryprocedure. It is possible that the need to generate savings in the education budget may preclude
principals are advised, therefore, that they should conduct transfer interviews with parents during a period when these interviews cannot become involved in issues related to breakaway entrance test results. Primary school principals have no formal involvement in these tests. Responsibility for completion ofthe Transfer Form continues to rest entirely with the parent. Primary schoolprincipals should also note that any transfer interviews conducted after 4 February 2011 will not be considered by the Department to be part ofthe transfer procedure and will not therefore be eligiblefor substitute teacher cover. An appropriate adjustment is being made to the arrangements for claiming substitute cover for involvement in the transfer
The DENI Circular on transfer: 2010-12 circular_2010-12_-_the_procedure_for_transfer_from_primary_to_post-primary_education_2011-12_pdf_2.62mb raises issues about the future of parent interviews.
In 1999 during the euphoria following the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland the then Education Minister, now deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness banned the publication of school performance or league tables. The TES http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=348747 published an article calling for a similar action in Wales. Fast forward a decade.
Research published this week http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-11669714 on the effect of such an action in Wales, another UK devolved jurisdiction, showed the effects of simplistic ideological imposition versus application of sound scientific evidence.
McGuinness and his party were wrong in 1999 they remain in error and denial today. Children from disadvantaged areas throughout Northern Ireland have suffered enough at the hands of so-called “reformed” terrorists. To deprive them and their parents of information on the effectiveness of their teachers is despicable. McGuinness’ replacement in the Department of Education, Caitriona Ruane has adopted the same Marxist ideology of imposing equality of outcome in her failed attempt to end academic selection. She has also failed miserably to improve numeracy and literacy results for the disadvantaged while ignoring and delaying the publication of evidence that public opinion did not support her policy.
Ruane was a prominent member of the Bring Them Home campaign for the Colombia Three, which sought the safe return of three Irishmen later convicted in their absence in Colombia of training Marxist rebels.
Parents should insist that politicians re-introduce performance/league tables in Northern Ireland as a priority. The naming and shaming exercise has already been highlighted in this blog when the Los Angeles Times published information on teachers performance despite threats from the teaching unions and a threat of boycott.
Ruane might want to head up another crusade – The “Bring Them Back” campaign – for school performance tables. Don’t hold your breath.
September 20, 2010
While the local media report on appeals surrounding grammar schools admission refusals, the Minister of Education and the Department of Education, Northern Ireland continue with their stealthy attempts to undermine the principle and practice of academic selection via testing. It should be noted by Belfast Telegraph readers that the education correspondent, Kathryn Torney failed to mention the DENI circular “procedures for admission complaints” in her “background” piece of September 17, 2010. One can only speculate whose interests she represents. When a grammar school can not select on the basis of academic ability by testing it is then a comprehensive school.
September 1, 2010
Ofqual http://www.ofqual.gov.uk/are investigating a complaint about CCEA’s handling of this years A-Level Chemistry results. For once CCEA will not have the final word in investigating their own shortcomings. The Education Minister must consider whether the appointment of Gavin Boyd to chief executive of CCEA marks him out as the right man to fall on his sword.
Ofqual may investigate complaints about awarding organisation malpractice without requiring the awarding organisation’s complaint procedures to have been completed.
The Belfast Telegraph have picked up a PA/Reuters article but as usual no commenting is permitted by readers. An explanation is required as to why the BT education correspondent did not pick up and publish the Ofqual investigation herself
The Academies Bill has been passed into legislation in Westminster this week. Already it has begun to unravel. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/jul/29/michael-gove-academy-schools
The Conservative Party (which abandoned support for grammar schools and academic selection in 2007) has now come clean with an unequivocal quote from schools minister Nick Gibb MP,
”We are committed to comprehensive education and this bill will strengthen comprehensive education,”
Nick Gibb MP
he said. “Nor is this bill about scrapping the admissions code. All academies will be bound by the admissions code through the model funding agreement.”
Nick Gibb, said the bill would “grant greater autonomy to individual schools, give more freedom to teachers and inject a new level of dynamism into a programme that has been proven to raise standards for all children.”
Unfortunately for Msrs Cameron, Gove and Gibb the evidence for this claim is lacking.
Perhaps the Conservative Party in general and their “Friends of Grammar Schools” rebel Graham Brady in particular should examine the Northern Ireland experience closely.
When the Education Minister, Sinn Fein’s Caitriona Ruane attempted to end academic selection by withdrawing the official 11-plus parents demonstrated their objections and encouraged the development of a commercial replacement.
The number of pupils entered for the replacement 11-plus test was almost equivalent to the previous 11-plus. Parents were willing to fund the tests themselves. Unfortunately for some parents some grammar school heads have choosen to abandon the principle of academic selection and therefore the basis of grammar schools. Therein lies the dangers inherent in the English Academies Bill. Giving increased powers, without commensurate accountability, to headteachers, could result in disaster. Parents should not be surprised by the behaviour of politicians but should ask themselves about the decision making abilities and incentives behind the decisions of some grammar school heads to sign up for Academy status.
Caitriona Ruane learned a hard lesson. Time for David Cameron, Michael Gove and Nick Gibb to learn theirs too.