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Once parents have been croziered into compliance with the “Catholic Test” it will be withdrawn leaving the parents and pupils adrift.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.
In a poor attempt to convince parents of their effectiveness the DUP have misinterpreted the significance of a statement by Father Ignatius McQuillan recently published in the Irish News http://www.irishnews.com/articles/540/561/2009/7/20/622952_388069193305Exambanw.html
In a mandatory coalition executive dependent upon mutual cooperation to avoid collapse the DUP must be seen to be outdoing their Sinn Fein partners. As history has revealed the DUP’s effectiveness in tackling anyone with their own developed strategy is virtually non-existent. Sinn Fein’s destruction of grammar schools has been aided and abetted by token opposition and slick slogans.
While the conflicted anti-academic selection position of the Catholic Bishops in Northern Ireland has been sold to the media on social justice and moral grounds that is clearly not the disclosed position for Catholic schools in England where two very high profile campaigns to save Roman Catholic grammar schools have been initiated by headteachers and parents working together.
There is no evidence of ”growing opposition” to non-selective schooling. Such opposition has been constant since the first attempt to remove the 11-plus. If academic selection is to be ended it must be applied to non-Catholic schools at the same time as Catholic schools lest Catholic parents move their children to non-Catholic grammar schools. Unfortunately there won’t be enough room for all the applicants. Social selection will replace academic selection. Perhaps Mr Storey should consult his East Antrim MP friend Sammy Wilson about the parental pressure group STOP. This pressure group petitioned the Catholic bishops to restore the regulated “interim” CCEA test abandoned by Caitriona Ruane in February. The campaign resulted in a complete failure to change the minister’s and the bishops’ position yet not a meaningful cheep from the loud and vociferous MP.
Mr Wilson will know of Mr Storey’s involvement as a member of the Board of Governors at Ballymoney Model Primary School. Despite his senior position in the DUP and access to communication tools Mr Storey was unable to prevent a teacher led plot to convert the school to integrated status.
If Mervyn Storey, Sammy Wilson and the DUP had been fully involved in opposing Sinn Fein’s strategy to remove grammar schools they would have been aware that Ignatius McQuillan, like the late Monsenior Denis Faul, has always opposed the anti-11-plus, anti-grammar position of the hierarchy. Unfortunately the Catholic Church is not a democratic organisation and the power rests with the Irish Catholic bishops. The DUP were made aware of the loss of social mobility when grammar schools were removed in large portions of England but choose to keep silent on the issue. The DUP were made aware of the negative impact of the revised curriculum project inflicted on Shankill Road primary schools but stayed silent. Diane Dodds MEP was the DUP’s representative for the Shankill. The DUP were made aware of the potential disaster that ESA would bring under the former CCEA boss, Gavin Boyd, but predictably did nothing to prevent his rise to power.
Perhaps Mervyn Storey will now disclose the results of his meetings with Cardinal Brady and contrast the Cardinal’s position with that of the stated DUP position on the 11-plus and academic selection to grammar schools. Perhaps they are not too far apart?
For immediate release
AN UNHOLY MESS: THE ATTACK ON ACADEMIC SELECTION AND GRAMMAR SCHOOLS
“Is it to be tomorrow and tomorrow? Why not now? Why not this very hour put an end to shame?”
Bishop of Hippo, Doctor of the Church (A.D. 430)
WHERE IS THE SUPPOSED IMMORALITY OF ACADEMIC SELECTION FOR THE CATHOLIC CHURCH TODAY?
The announcement by the Catholic Commission on the limited use of academic entrance tests for Catholic Grammar schools raises a fundamental question about the Catholic Church’s position on academic selection.
The NICCE representing the Catholic bishops and leaders of religious congregations as trustees of Catholic schools has reversed a previous position by the Northern Bishops.
The reluctant blessing from the bishops for academic selection to continue goes against warnings of legal perils from Caitriona Ruane, the Education Minister and is the outcome established in a bid to agree on a joint way forward for the Catholic sector.
However the new policy on post-primary transfer for Catholic schools suggests that all schools should stop using academic selection no later than 2012. This position is nonsense.
Stephen Elliott, Chairman of The Parental Alliance for Choice in Education said,
“Academic selection, which is a fundamental principle and practice for grammar schools, is being used as an instrument of convenience by the Catholic Church and education system hierarchy.
There remains a fundamental flaw in the Catholic hierarchy’s thinking on the matter of academic selection. The Church leaders fail to acknowledge that parents want academic selection as the first criteria for admission to grammar schools. Parents wish, in consultation and with quantitative information, to choose schools for their children not for schools, educationalists, the DENI or politicians to choose those schools for them or remove them from existence.
The Parental Alliance for Choice in Education welcomes the fact that a philosophical right to academic selection has been recognised by the anti-selection Catholic hierarchy. That right must also be recognised by the other main church leaders”
Notes to Editors
Extracts from the Catholic Bishops Statement on Academic selection
“We wish to state our clear opposition to the introduction of independent academic assessment tools by schools as a temporary or future means of pupil selection.”
“In this context, as the legal Trustees of Catholic schools in Northern Ireland, we do not approach the current debate about the future of education here from the point of view of any particular political philosophy or administrative policy. While some have sought to claim the support of the Catholic Bishops for their approach to the current debate, we have scrupulously avoided endorsing the perspective of any political party or specific structures to replace the 11+.
Parents and the wider public will rightly question the credibility of those who claim selection to be morally wrong while at the same time advocating its practice.”
March 22, 2009
on Wednesday March 18th was an important event in the passage of the Education and Skills Bill through the political arena.
Cardinal Brady and the Bishop Donal McKeown led Catholic Commission have stepped on to the big stage on the education issue by citing in their evidence to the Northern Ireland Assembly Education Committee nothing less than the European Convention on Human Rights.
The First Protocol (1952) to the European Convention on Human Rights includes the right to education (article 2):
No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.
Implementation of the Convention is ensured through cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights.
Now the Cardinal wishes the Education Committee to respect the rights of the Catholic Church during consideration of the ESA bill on religious belief grounds, including estate and employment matters, while at the same time ignoring the rights of parents with respect to their philosophical convictions on the matter of academic selection and grammar schools.
Cardinal Brady’s Church has declared academic selection “immoral”.
It may be helpful to revisit a PACE commentary on the Catholic Church’s selective position on social justice from early 2008
February 8, 2009
Sunday Sequence takes on the issue of education chaos today.
Presented by Will Leitch
The big Education Debate : order from chaos?
The comedy continues. PACE parents have just finished listening to BBC Radio Ulster Sunday Sequence during which Bishop McKeown (without the protestant church leaders) spoke at length of the Catholic education plan which he admitted had been thoroughly developed back in December but was only announced this past week. The minister’s failure to impose her “compromise” stay of execution required the removal of her “contingency test” and the deployment of the next phase of the Catholic solution. “From Chaos to Holy Order” may have been a more appropriate title for the Sunday Sequence set piece.
The most telling revelation during the programme was Bishop McKeown’s acceptance of short term immorality in exchange for medium and long term morality surrounding the Catholic position on academic selection. Parents of all faith will struggle with the concept.
Paul Hewitt of Dungannon Royal School, an AQE member, failed to communicate that the entire Catholic grammar system was afforded the opportunity via the GBA, to adopt the test measuring numeracy and literacy. Rejecting this offer from their non-denominational neighbours the Catholic system went their own way and have chosen an NFER intelligence test which cannot be taught for in the revised curriculum classroom. In much the same way that the GBA were offered the opportunity of computer adaptive testing and rejected it in a similar dismissive fashion.
For McKeown to claim that he has had this chaos was imposed upon him and his followers is disingenuous. This unease with the facts as represented by the auxillary bishop mirrors the concern over the appearance of Conall McDevitt’s blog claiming to be interested in parents and childrens views. McDevitt’s portrayal of Tony Gallagher as a neutral is a deception. Gallaher is anti-academic selection, always has been and has a never even taught in a post-primary classroom in his life. Note Donal’s call to consider the churches position.
Dragging us back to the rejected GBA selection at 14 conundrum is simply a diversion.
A final observation on the make up of the panel. Two Catholic grammar principals (Donal McKeown), one Catholic secondary head and a soon to be retired non-denominational grammar head. The BBC equality team need to take a look.
February 4, 2009
Confirming the claims of chaos in the post-primary transfer system one leader of the Catholic education system, bishop Donal McKeown, claims that they will provide a solution in five weeks.
In an interview on BBC radio Good Morning Ulster, the ex-headmaster turned education policy maker could not articulate a coherent Catholic ethos in respect of transfer.
What became clear to listeners was that the church feared an exodus to non-Catholic grammar schools in the wake of the Education Minister’s announcement of her “guidance” What was less clear was the role played by Bishop McKeown during the past decade in providing advice to the Department of Education submitted via Burns Report, Costello Report and various position papers on behalf of CCMS, the Catholic Bishops and heads groups.
It appears that the Catholic Churches position is that of Sinn Fein (ourselves alone) on education The Sinn Fein minister is delivering the policy of the Catholic Church on education. That position is anti-academic selection although selection inside the Catholic schools will continue. The fears of Sinn Fein and the Catholic Church are similar – the organic integration of Christian schoolchildren resulting in a loss of control.
Bishop McKeown cannot avoid his accountability on the descent into chaos. Five weeks, five months or five years will not assuage his fears.
January 28, 2009
Newton Emerson made a comment in the Irish News on August 30, 2005. It was
Alas for those unable to buy their way out of the coming catastrophe, the Department of Education is about to learn that it is only what parents want that matters.
Parents will be watching and listening with interest when Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane brings her proposals for regulation of a comprehensive, sectarian education system before the Northern Ireland Assembly tomorrow.
The Executive had better make the right decision. Problem is only parents know the acceptable solution. For almost a decade educationalists and politicians have singularly ignored their views. A major mistake.
December 31, 2008
On the eve of 2009 it is opportune to reflect on the legacy of ending the 11-plus in Northern Ireland. The “unregulated” system has left a vacuum of uncertainty for parents and children in primary schools. One group of grammar schools are offering a privitased transfer test similar to the most recent form of 11-plus testing.
The Catholic sector, unwilling to join their Christian fellows in the Voluntary and Controlled grammar schools, have broken away and will offer a retrograde “intelligence test” impossible to teach for using the current revised curriculum.
The Apartheid system facing parents in 2009 will result in further and formal segregation of schooling on a denominational basis. There will be no parity between the tests and parents living in Belfast will struggle to decide which test to enter their child for. The practical difficulties alone only serve to highlight the ineptitude of those charged with delivering education services. The peculiar moral and ethical juxtaposition of the Catholic Church’s position over a retrograde test for admission is best highlighted in the following passage. It should be remembered that the Church supports the revised curriculum.
As for the DUP; their support for the ESA and the litany of failures delivered by CCEA is only matched by their facile reversal of the St Andrew’s Agreement promises on academic selection and grammar schools.
CONGREGATION FOR CATHOLIC EDUCATION :THE CATHOLIC SCHOOL
In the specifically educational field, the scope of educational functions has broadened, becoming more complex, more specialized. The sciences of education, which concentrated in the past on the study of the child and teacher-training, have been widened to include the various stages of life, and the different spheres and situations beyond the school. New requirements have given force to the demand for new contents, new capabilities and new educational models besides those followed traditionally. Thus education and schooling become particularly difficult today.Such an outlook calls for courageous renewal on the part of the Catholic school. The precious heritage of the experience gained over the centuries reveals its vitality precisely in the capacity for prudent innovation. And so, now as in the past, the Catholic school must be able to speak for itself effectively and convincingly.The Catholic school, therefore, undertakes a cordial and constructive dialogue with states and civil authorities. Such dialogue and collaboration must be based on mutual respect, on the reciprocal recognition of each other’s role and on a common service to mankind. To achieve this end, the Catholic school willingly occupies its place within the school system of the different countries and in the legislation of the individual states, when the latter respect the fundamental rights of the human person, starting with respect for life and religious freedom. A correct relationship between state and school, not only a Catholic school, is based not so much on institutional relations as on the right of each person to receive a suitable education of their free choice. This right is acknowledged according to the principle of subsidiarity.(18) For “The public authority, therefore, whose duty it is to protect and defend the liberty of the citizens, is bound according to the principle of distributive justice to ensure that public subsidies are so allocated that parents are truly free to select schools for their children in accordance with their conscience“.
December 19, 2008
Will the Common Entrance Assessment Examination to be offered by non-denominational (Protestant) grammar schools http://www.aqe.org.uk/be carried out on the same day as the Catholic (Lumen Christi) Appitude /Reasoning examination http://www.lumenchristicollege.co.uk/index.php?sec_id=241
Or will the Catholic schools join the AQE and adopt the CEA test of numeracy and literacy?
Perhaps the AQE will adopt the Appitude /Reasoning examination?
Sir Kenneth Bloomfield and the Bishops should have a chat about this. Then parents may be told about how to send their children to two exams at the same time.
Since no teaching for these tests is to be carried out in schools room has to be found for preparation elsewhere in the day.
December 2, 2008
Catholic schools in Northern Ireland have opposed the position of the Cardinal and Bishops on academic selection as a consequence of developing “bilateral” schools.
Up to 35% of admissions are to be determined by academic selection according to Simon Doyle’s report. However the method or test to be used is not defined. Speculation rests on the Lumen Christi NFER instrument which is INFERIOR to the 11-plus transfer test recently abolished by the DENI. A step backwards while raising doubts about the position taken by the Church hierachy. Perhaps Bishop Donal McKeown is falling out of favour?